A Step Backwards: Alaska Yields to Cruise Industry Lobbying and Repeals Wastewater Restrictions.

Want some some zinc, nickel and copper in your Alaskan salmon? Well, now you can.

Today the Republican controlled Alaska Senate voted 14 to 6 to approve a law proposed by Governor Parnell to abolish cruise ship wastewater standards enacted in 2006.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the new law will allow the cruise industry to indefinitely discharge ammonia, a product of human waste, and heavy metals, dissolved from ship plumbing. Those discharges would have been banned in 2015 under a 2006 citizen initiative.

Alaska Air and Water PollutionThe new law dismantles a scientific advisory panel on cruise ship wastewater created in 2009. 

Formerly the most progressive state in the U.S. protecting its waters from harmful cruise ship discharges, Alaska was intimidated by the cruise industry to roll back its environmental regulations to permit cruise lines to dump high levels of waste by-products and heavy metals like zinc, copper and nickel.   

Ammonia contributes to algae blooms and harms shellfish. Copper, one of the heavy metals, has been shown to harmful to salmon. 

Fishing groups, environmentalists, Alaska native organizations and residents of coastal communities spoke out against the new pro-cruise line law.

During Tuesday's floor debate, Senator Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, listed a series of pollution violations by cruise ships over the years, including 41 in 2009. 

You can read our last article about this mess here: The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

What a big victory for the Miami-based cruise industry.

And what a disgrace for the state of Alaska.

Governor Parnell Continues to Advance Dirty Cruise Industry's Interests

Governor Parnell and the pro-cruise pollution legislators in Alaska have some new talking points in their efforts to weaken the cruise line waste water restrictions. They say that its not the cruise sewage that will harm the state's image but their opponents' "hype" that easing the standards will result in "dirty water and terrible discharges."        

Putting aside for a moment the nasty spectacle of dumping partially treated sewage into the water, the fact is that cruise ship water treatment devices clearly do not treat all of the wastewater discharged in Alaskan waters in compliance with Alaska’s water quality standards regarding ammonia, as well as the heavy metals - copper, nickel and zinc.

Alaska Cruise Ship Pollution It's unhealthy and dangerous to release these heavy metals into the waters where they will find their way in the fish, particularly salmon. 

Three years ago, the cruise industry flat out threatened Governor Parnell that it would boycott Alaska unless he would agree to work with the cruise lines to avoid pollution regulations. Read Governor Parnell Gets Punked.

Instead of demanding better technologies to address this problem, as required by the 2006 initiatives, Governor is heading the state in the other direction where no efforts will be made to address the problems with heavy metals. Meanwhile, the sewage (whether partially treated or not) will continue to fill the Alaskan waters.   

A newspaper in Ketchikan explains that this is a huge problem given the enormous amount of sewage and toxic by-products which cruise ships will dump in Alaskan waters:

"About 30 cruise ships carrying a total of nearly one million people visit Alaska over a five month period. This result is over one billion gallons of cruise discharges being dumped into unknown areas of Alaska state waters every year."

The newspaper also points out that on January 29th, as the relaxed laws were being fast tracked by legislators, Princess Cruises was fined $20,000 (a slap on the wrist) when one of its cruise ships, the 2,590 passenger Golden Princess, discharged 66,000 gallons of chlorinated pool water into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  

Zinc, nickel and copper in the fish and chlorine in the water. Alaska is heading backwards.

Read our last article on these disturbing developments in Alaska:

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier