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EPA reviews cruise ship discharges in Alaska

A final national report on cruise ship discharges will help EPA determine whether the existing State of Alaska discharge standards for sewage and graywater from cruise ships operating in Alaskan waters are adequate.

The Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report reviewed five waste streams from cruise ships: sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid waste and hazardous waste. For each waste stream, the report discusses the nature and volume of the waste stream generated, existing federal regulations applicable to the waste stream, environmental management (including treatment) of the waste stream, potential adverse environmental impacts of the waste stream, and actions by the federal government to address the waste stream. In addition, the report presents a wide range of options and alternatives to address the specified waste streams from cruise ships.

“EPA’s report represents a significant and long-term effort on the part of EPA’s staff as well as the State of Alaska and others and we appreciate their hard work,” said John Binkley, President, Alaska Cruise Association.

“Our industry takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and has made many changes in recent years in its wastewater technology and operating practices, and we meet or exceed all applicable federal and state standards applicable to all waste streams. The industry already is in the process of reviewing the study as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce its environmental impact and further improve its waste management practices.”

“The report commends the industry for its solid waste management practices and acknowledges our voluntary waste management practices and procedures that began in 2001. Some of the findings, such as early evaluations (2000) of MSD type II systems, are based on system designs and specifications that have been significantly updated and improved since the time the sampling and analysis were completed. The evaluations of Advanced Wastewater Treatment systems have shown that these systems are performing quite well, and in most cases the effluent meets all National Recommended Water Quality Standards (NRWQS) measured at the point of discharge. The effluent from these systems is comparable or better than virtually any municipal wastewater system in the United States.”

Binkley went on to say: “The cruise industry recognizes and appreciates its responsibility in protecting the environment. We will continue to work with the relevant international organizations, EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as various states, on compliance with applicable regulatory regimes and procedures. Within the cruise industry there is a deep understanding that we are operating in fragile environments and we are taking aggressive steps to mitigate our impact on them and protect one of the most important assets we have – the world’s oceans.

EPA invited comment on a draft of the report last year, and specifically requested public input on options, alternatives, and recommendations for addressing the waste streams assessed by EPA. The report includes suggestions from the public comments.

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