SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



"YES" on the Cruise Ship Ballot Initiative
By Carrie L. James


May 22 2006

When we talk about the ballot initiative as a health issue - here is a report generated by the Congress specifically stating the health consequences of cruise ship pollution:


Blackwater is sewage, wastewater from toilets and medical facilities, which can contain harmful bacteria, pathogens, diseases, viruses, intestinal parasites, and harmful nutrients. Discharges of untreated or inadequately treated sewage can cause bacterial and viral contamination of fisheries and shellfish beds, producing risks to public health. Nutrients in sewage, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, promote excessive algal growth, which consumes oxygen in the water and can lead to fish kills and destruction of other aquatic life. A large cruise ship (3,000 passengers and crew) generates an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 gallons per day of blackwater waste.

Graywater is wastewater from the sinks, showers, galleys, laundry, and cleaning activities aboard a ship. It can contain a variety of pollutant substances, including fecal coliform bacteria, detergents, oil and grease, metals, organics, petroleum hydrocarbons, nutrients, food waste, and medical and dental waste. Graywater has potential to cause adverse environmental effects because of concentrations of nutrients and other oxygen-demanding materials, in particular.

Graywater is typically the largest source of liquid waste generated by cruise ships (90%-95% of the total). Estimates of graywater range from 30 to 85 gallons per day per person, or 90,000 to 255,000 gallons per day for a 3,000-person cruise ship.

Cruise ships produce hazardous wastes from a number of on-board activities and processes, including photo processing, dry-cleaning, and equipment cleaning.

These materials contain a wide range of substances such as hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons, heavy metals, paint waste, solvents, fluorescent and mercury vapor light bulbs, various types of batteries, and unused or outdated pharmaceuticals. Although the quantities of hazardous waste generated on cruise ships are small, their toxicity to sensitive marine organisms can be significant. Without careful management, these wastes can find their way into graywater, bilge water, or the solid waste stream. Solid waste generated on a ship includes glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum and steel cans, and plastics. Much of this solid waste is incinerated on board, and the ash typically is discharged at sea, although some is landed ashore for disposal or recycling.

Marine mammals, fish, sea turtles, and birds can be injured or killed from entanglement with plastics and other solid waste that may be released or disposed off of cruise ships. On average, each cruise ship passenger generates at least two pounds of non-hazardous solid waste per day and disposes of two bottles and two cans.

With large cruise ships carrying several thousand passengers, the amount of waste generated in a day can be massive. For a large cruise ship, about 8 tons of solid waste are generated during a one-week cruise.12 It has been estimated that 24% of the solid waste generated by vessels worldwide (by weight) comes from cruise ships. Most cruise ship garbage is treated on board (incinerated,pulped, or ground) for discharge overboard. When garbage must be off-loaded (for example, because glass and aluminum cannot be incinerated), cruise ships can put a strain on port reception facilities, which are rarely adequate to the task of serving a large passenger vessel (especially at non-North American ports). On a ship, oil often leaks from engine and machinery spaces or from engine maintenance activities and mixes with water in the bilge, the lowest part of the hull of the ship. Oil, gasoline, and byproducts from the biological breakdown of petroleum products can harm fish and wildlife and pose threats to human health if ingested. Oil in even minute concentrations can kill fish or have various sub-lethal chronic effects.

Bilge water also may contain solid wastes and pollutants containing high amounts of oxygen-demanding material, oil and other chemicals. A typical large cruise ship will generate an average of 8 metric tons of oily bilge water for each 24 hours of operation.15 To maintain ship stability and eliminate potentially hazardous conditions from oil vapors in these areas, the bilge spaces need to be flushed and periodically pumped dry. However, before a bilge can be cleared out and the water discharged, the oil that has been accumulated needs to be extracted from the bilge water, after which the extracted oil can be reused, incinerated, and/or offloaded in port. If a separator, which is normally used to extract the oil, is faulty or is deliberately bypassed, untreated oily bilge water could be discharged directly into the ocean, where it can damage marine life. A number of cruise lines have been charged with environmental violations related to this issue in recent years.

Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a tremendous amount of ballast water to stabilize the vessel during transport. Ballast water is often taken on in the coastal waters in one region after ships discharge wastewater or unload cargo, and discharged at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded, which reduces the need for compensating ballast. Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems. Ballast water discharges are believed to be the leading source of invasive species in U.S.marine waters, thus posing public health and environmental risks, as well as significant economic cost to industries such as water and power utilities, commercial and recreational fisheries, agriculture, and tourism.16 Studies suggest that the economic cost just from introduction of pest mollusks (zebra mussels, the Asian clam, and others) to U.S. aquatic ecosystems is more than $6 billion per year.17 These problems are not limited to cruise ships, but there is little cruise-industry specific data on the issue, and further study is needed to determine cruise ships' role in the overall problem of introduction of non-native species by vessels.

Air pollution from cruise ships is generated by diesel engines that burn high sulfur content fuel, producing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, in addition to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons. EPA recognizes that these emissions from marine diesel engines contribute to ozone and carbon monoxide nonattainment, as well as adverse health effects associated with ambient concentrations of particulate matter and visibility, haze, acid deposition, and eutrophication and nitrophication of water.18 EPA estimates that large marine diesel engines accounted for about 1.6% of mobile source nitrogen oxide emissions and 2.8% of mobile source particulate emissions in the United States in 2000.

Please Vote "YES" on the Cruise Ship Ballot Initiative, the $50/head tax will make it feasable to put a qualified person on the cruiseships 24/7 to monitor potential violations. Let's keep Alaska pristine.

These facts are not only my concerns but concerns of ANB/ANS Grand Camp.

Carrie L. James
ANS Grand 2nd Vice President
ANS Camp #14 President
Subsistence user
Ketchikan, AK - USA


Related Information:

CRS Report for Congress (pdf)


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