Cruise discharges continues to show high waste levels

Posted: Monday, October 23, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Ongoing analysis of wastewater discharges from cruise ships continues to show high levels of fecal matter and some heavy metals but no hazardous wastes, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said.

Under the voluntary sampling program of the Cruise Ship Initiative, a collaboration between the industry and regulators, the U.S. Coast Guard took water samples twice from each of 21 large cruise ships visiting Southeast Alaska this summer.

The initiative's water committee meets Tuesday.

The results so far show a consistent pattern, said Michael Conway, director of DEC's Statewide Public Service Division.

''Everything we saw there was consistent with what we saw in the past,'' Conway said.

The analysis is not turning up toxic materials from DEC's list of 126 priority pollutants, but it does show problems with sanitation devices that are supposed to clean up some of the wastewater before it's put over the side, Conway said.

Test results from two more ships show both had discharges with 10 times as much suspended solids than allowed under federal standards for treated sewage. One of the samples also vastly exceeded the standard for fecal coliform bacteria, with 2.4 million colonies of bacteria per 100 milliliters, compared to the limit of 200.

On a third ship, elevated levels of copper, lead and zinc were reported.

However, the new reports did not include any finding of the banned pesticide heptachlor, which was detected at trace levels in samples from three previous ships.

The first set of results in mid-September prompted Gov. Tony Knowles to label the cruise industry's environmental performance ''disgraceful'' and to call for additional regulation at both the federal and state level.

Federal legislation is now pending and cruise line officials are set to meet with Knowles next month.

So far, analysis for conventional pollutants has been done on 31 of 42 samples taken, Conway said.

There also were 235 air-opacity readings taken this summer to determine if smoke from the ships violated state and federal standards for visual obstruction. There were 30 violations recorded, which will be turned over to Alaska' attorney general for possible prosecution, Conway said.

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