Cruise ships better about waste

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The cruise-ship industry has done a good job of curbing its air pollution, but needs to do more to improve wastewater discharges, according to a report from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The report, which scores the industry's environmental performance this summer, said cruise lines should be credited for taking steps to cut air emissions.

But wastewater discharges remain a problem. The report comes one year after a state law took effect regulating cruise ship pollution.

Of the 25 large cruise ships that visit Alaska, only seven have been retrofitted with advanced systems to treat wastewater, the report said. Of these, six meet the tough, new state standards for treatment of sewage.

Meeting the new standard allows ships to continuously discharge treated wastewater within three miles of shore. If they can't meet the standard, the vessels hold their waste until 12 miles out to sea.

The 18 large ships that can't pass the new standard are holding their sewage until they're farther offshore. Because they're not discharging in Alaska waters, they're also not testing their effluent as required under the new state law.

''Vessels that choose this course may not be treating wastes and do not provide the monitoring and verification required by the Alaska program,'' said Michele Brown, state commissioner of environmental conservation.

Greg Kellogg, an Environmental Protection Agency program manager in Anchorage, said the agency is close to requiring cruise ships to get wastewater discharge permits and write standards for the types and amounts of waste that can be released by cruise ships.

There is one company in particular, Holland America Line, that deserves praise, the DEC said. The company has invested an estimated $12.5 million on advanced systems to clean sewage and sink wastewater before releasing them into the sea.

Five of the six Holland America ships that ply Alaska water now have costly bioreactors on board that use bacteria and ultraviolet light to turn sewage into liquid virtually as clear as drinking water, said Carolyn Morehouse, a state environmental engineer.

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