In 2006, Alaskan citizens sent a clear message to the cruise industry that cruise ships could not treat the beautiful waters of Alaska like a toilet.
Seven years ago Alaskan voters approved legislation that prohibited cruise ships from discharging "untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates any applicable effluent limits or standards under state or federal law, including Alaska Water Quality Standards governing pollution at the point of discharge.”
The Alaskan regulations strictly restricted the level of ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc. As of 2009, cruise ships were routinely being caught violating the Alaska regulations. In this chart, in 2009 alone, there were forty-one (41) violations of Alaska'a waster water and air emission laws by Celebrity, HAL, NCL, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silverseas, with Carnival-owned Princess and HAL cruise ships being the greatest offenders.
The Miami-based cruise industry is used to getting its way. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are used to dumping untreated sewage in the waters of powerless Caribbean countries. Most port nations and even most states in the U.S. where the cruise lines base their cruise ships have not enacted any waste water discharge regulations whatsoever.
But Alaska was different, It not only passed legislation that banned the nasty cruise line practice of opening the bowels of the huge ships into the state's waters but it took steps to levy a realistic head tax of $50 per passenger to offset the damage to Alaska's infrastructure caused by the massive cruise ships.
The cruise lines did not like Alaska's exercise of its state rights one bit. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying against waste water regulations. It attacked the green water scientists, removed the honest water experts from oversight panels, inserted cruise industry hacks, and bullied state officials and concerned citizens.
Carnival led the charge. It threatened Alaskan Governor Parnell that it would pull its ships from Alaska and it sued the state along with other cruise lines to avoid the $50 head tax.
Alaskan Governor Parnell backed down and sent a message to the cruise industry that the state's water emission laws are negotiable. Alaska caved in and reduced its $50 head tax. Alaska began sliding down the slippery slope as the cruise lines increased their lobbying and threatened to boycott Alaska.
The result today is that at Governor Parnell's urging, the House of Representatives just voted to essentially repeal all of the 2006 waster water initiatives. The debate is now moving to the Senate.
A repeal of the 2006 laws will be disastrous to the waters of Alaska.
As explained in this thoughtful blog, "a single cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. There are 28 very large cruise ships which operate up to 150 days annually in Alaska. Such large quantities of pollution are a threat to Alaska’s critical fisheries."
This results is approximately 1,064,448,000 gallons of sewage and wastewater being dumped into Alaska state waters every year. The really sinister part of the abandonment of the pollution laws is that Republicans rejected Democratic amendments which would have required disclosure of the location of sewage discharges and protected fisheries from sewage discharges.
The thought of the cruise industry dumping over a billion gallons of cruise ship crap into the salmon filled waters is really gross. They can keep the locations secret too. I hate to think of all of the norovirus-laden poop floating around with the fish. But this is the reality of a cruise industry which projects itself as a steward of the seas but is actually the Alaskan waters' worst enemy.
Salmon - earthjustice.com