(Anchorage) – Tuesday, March 25th the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) issued the first Large Commercial Passenger Vessel Wastewater Discharge General Permit that imposes limits on some trace metals so stringent that no ship can meet them, nor can any land-based wastewater facility in Alaska.
“Although we appreciate ADEC’s decision to allow the cruise lines two years to come into compliance with the new standards for copper, zinc, lead and ammonia, the permit language causes us great concern,” said John Binkley, President, Alaska Cruise Association. “We made a commitment to Alaska to go above and beyond compliance, and then spent more than $200 million to install some of the most advanced wastewater treatment systems in the world.”
“Both the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ADEC agree that wastewater we discharge poses no harm to the environment. To quote from today’s ADEC press release: ‘The department has determined that as long as ships comply with the interim effluent limits there will be no impacts on water resources or aquatic life.'”
“The technology to meet the copper standard simply does not exist and we believe it unreasonable to adopt a standard that no one can meet, particularly when there is no evidence that the standard will improve the environment.”
Under the terms of the permit, ships could not take on drinking water from any port in Alaska – or from Anchorage or Wasilla – and then discharge that drinking water.
The new permit requires the ships to meet all Alaska Water Quality Standards at the point of discharge instead of allowing a dilution zone, which every state in United States allows and State of Alaska statutes contemplate. “ADEC has repeatedly recognized that this makes no sense whatsoever and is beyond the capabilities of existing technologies,” Binkley said.
As AEDC stated in a 2005 press release: “Without mixing zones, wastewater would have to be treated to the point where it could serve as a source of drinking water, and that just isn’t feasible here or anywhere else.”
The Large Commercial Passenger Vessel Wastewater Discharge General Permit is a requirement of the cruise ship initiative Alaskans passed in 2006. Supporters of the initiative repeatedly told voters that the ships should be held to the same standards that “every other industrial and municipal discharger” must meet and that “no new permitting is necessary, with these regulations we now see that was simply not true. Alaskans were misled.” Binkley said.
The Alaska Cruise Association was founded last year to find ways to increase economic benefits Alaskans receive from cruise lines, address environmental issues and improve community relationships.