Cruise waste task force wants another year of tests

Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A task force on cruise ship waste wants to continue this year's air and water emission monitoring program next year, but cruise line officials say they may not be willing to pick up another year's cost for air-monitoring equipment, water sampling and laboratory analysis.

Company officials also want more rigorous review of findings before they're made public.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation held two committee meetings Tuesday of the Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative, a collaboration between the industry and regulators.

David Rogers of DEC characterized the consensus of the working groups on air- and water-quality as ''let's keep the pedal to the metal.''

But members disagreed about the meaning of test results this year and about the way information was released.

The industry has been partially vindicated in the area of air quality. Despite citations to various cruise lines for air emissions that exceed standards for visibility, ambient air monitoring in downtown Juneau has shown no violation of clean air standards.

An air-quality contractor tested air variously for sulfur dioxide, fine particulates and nitrogen oxides at three downtown locations from mid-August through the end of September. The highest finding recorded for any pollutant was only 40 percent of the threshold for a clean air violation.

Industry critics were dubious about the results.

''I'm not ready to sign off on the health aspects due to a six-week study during the rainy, cold time of the year,'' said Kim Metcalfe-Helmar of the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

The initiative's air-quality group agreed that the next air monitoring program should be year-round, partly to establish a baseline for local sources of air emissions.

That brought a complaint from Nick Schowengerdt of Holland America about who would pay for the program.

'''We need to talk about cost-sharing, folks,'' Schowengerdt said.

Industry officials also complained about premature disclosure of data to the public.

Testing of cruise ship wastewater found various toxic compounds, but in small concentrations that do not suggest that ships have been mixing hazardous wastes with wastewater, said Deena Henkins of DEC. One such compound was heptachlor, a banned pesticide.

David Eley of Cape Decision International Services, the state contractor for wastewater analysis, said the Colorado laboratory that earlier found faint traces of the banned pesticide heptachlor in water samples from three ships is now rechecking its findings.

''There are some early indications it might not be heptachlor,'' Eley said.

Tom Dow of Princess Cruises said the heptachlor finding was an example of information being released prematurely, without rigorous scientific review.

''It's very difficult to erase that impression that's left,'' Dow said.

Meanwhile, industry officials pledged continuing action to reduce high fecal coliform counts found in wastewater, pointing to a variety of new treatment systems in testing now.

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