Our priority: To support equitable environmental laws for the cruise industry.
In the past, cruise lines were targeted as primary polluters in Alaskan waters and mistakes were made by various lines. These types of incidents are a thing of the past and the industry continued to work on more effective ways to treat wastewater effluent and other waste streams.
In 1999 the Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative began a collaborative process in evaluating compliance standards for emissions and wastewater as well as the science and technology behind it all. New regulations and standards were developed as a result of the findings in this multi-agency, public and industry process.
This became the Commercial Passenger Vessel Environmental Compliance Program administered by Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
The cruise industry spent millions complying with the new more stringent standards and modified new builds to comply with these standards. These standards were higher than the federal standards and were the most stringent of any standards in the world but the industry agreed that it was the right thing to do and ship systems were developed to meet these Alaska standards. These standards became a model for other states and countries to emulate.
In 2002, The Alaska cruise industry spent millions researching new wastewater treatment systems. After Ballot Measure 2 passed the standards and investment resulting from the collaborative Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative process went by the wayside and a new regulatory regime was put into place. The industry spent many more millions preparing to meet the Ballot Measure 2 standards. At the time Ballot Measure 2 passed, there were no commercially available wastewater treatment systems that could meet all of the limits set for ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc. In agreement with the Ballot Measure sponsors and ADEC the industry was give until 2010 to comply with the new limits.
Signers of the petition to put Ballot Measure 2 to a vote were led to believe that cruise lines would be held to the same standards as other industry and municipality treatment facilities in Alaska.
The sponsors of Ballot Measure 2 said they were only seeking to make the Alaska cruise industry adhere to the same pollution standards as other Alaska industries and municipalities. Quote from Joe Geldhof, Ballot Measure 2 Sponsor, “There’s nothing radical on here,” said Geldhof, adding that the measure would make the cruise industry adhere to the same pollution standards as fisheries, municipalities, and gas and oil companies. (Skagway News - August 11, 2006.)
After Ballot Measure 2 passed, it was discovered that the environmental limits were far more restrictive than stated by the sponsors. Some of the standards are so restrictive that current wastewater treatment technology cannot process samples to those levels. Municipalities are not held to these standards. For example - the City of Juneau is allowed to discharge 95.8 micrograms per liter of dissolved copper per day whereas a cruise ship in 2010 is only allowed to discharge 3.1 micrograms per liter of dissolved copper per day.
Daily discharge limits allowed in the City of Juneau would be the equivalent of 53 large cruise ships daily discharge under Ballot Measure 2 standards. If each vessel had 2000 passengers and 1,000 crewmembers that would be equal to a population of 159,000 people. The most current population data shows Juneau's population to be 30,988 as of July 2008.
The majority of large cruise ships operating in Alaska have advanced wastewater treatment systems that produce a very high quality discharge – much higher, for example, than shore- based municipal sewage treatment systems. Even so, cruise ship discharges are expected to have trouble meeting water quality standards for four parameters -- ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc. (Alaska Department of Conservation Press Release, March 25, 2008.) The environmental limits and standards created by the sponsors of Ballot Measure 2 were not based on scientific data. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) could not use science to help set the limits and standards based on scientific data.
Other industries and municipalities in Alaska are allowed to have a dispersion area for testing of wastewater samples cruise ship testing of wastewater is to be done at the point of discharge from the wastewater system. There is no chance for samples to disburse in a mixing zone.
Definition of 1(ug/L) : 1 (ug/L) or microgram per liter represents 1 part per billion (ppb). An example of one part per billion is one cent in $10 million