Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
Degradation of Alaska’s clean water
By Daven Hafey & James Sullivan
February 02, 2013
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council does not support the governor’s proposal to allow the degradation of Alaska’s clean water. The Cruise Ship Wastewater Discharge Permits bill (SB 29 &HB 80) is a flawed piece of legislation that does not adequately address the issues of large passenger ship effluent discharge. Alaskans understand that the average cruise ship can discharge 800 cubic meters of partially treated effluent per day. That means potentially 634 million gallons per season. That is the equivalent of over 19,000,000 bathtubs worth of water with contaminants such as fecal coliform, ammonia, and dissolved metals like copper, zinc, and nickel dropped in the Inside Passage waters. There are numerous issues within this legislation that we find especially troubling. Here are some of the major ones:
- Under current standards the Department of Environmental Conservation issues permits with different standards for different ships. This allows ships to basically set their own standards on the amount of contaminants they can discharge like dissolved copper. We want to see one uniform standard for ships of similar size.
- This bill repeals the Science Advisory Panel on Cruise Ship Wastewater two years prior to its legislative mandated final report (due January 1, 2015). This undermines the hard work already done by the panel and eliminates further public involvement.
- This bill, in its present form, has no requirement for the cruise ship companies to file a Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) with the State as do all other dischargers holding permits. A publically available DMR would give the public the information necessary to avoid these areas of contamination while fishing or shellfish gathering. We ask that this requirement be a condition of the discharge permit, the same as it is required of other permit holders.
- The State should be required to take samplings at the edge of mixing zones.
- In its current form, the bill does not describe how the many mixing zones will be regulated or monitored. State law requires that the water quality criteria be met at the edge of the mixing zone. We would like language included as to how ADEC is going to assure compliance with state law.
- As it is written, this bill would allow cruise ships to discharge millions of gallons of partially treated human waste in critical salmon and aquatic life habitat, including areas used for commercial, sport or subsistence fishing. This bill should include exclusion zones to protect critical habitat areas, shellfish farms, and important fisheries.
We urge the legislature to vote no on this legislation and recommend that the Governor re-evaluate his approach to permitting of cruise ships.
Received January 31, 2013
- Published February 02, 2013
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