ACA’s Rod Pfleiger, left, enjoys the food with Keith Perkins, Sitka Chamber of Commerce board member, during Sitka’s first Season’s End Celebration and 14th annual Running of the Boots. ACA was a major sponsor of the event which celebrated the end of the fishing and visitor season.

Ketchikan’s Borough and City passed resolutions earlier this month urging the State Legislature to modify wastewater discharge standards for cruise ships.

The resolutions, approved by the Ketchikan Borough Assembly and Ketchikan City Council, ask the legislature to base the standards on “science” and to ensure “that those standards will continue to protect aquatic life and the environment, but will not be technologically and financially unreasonable or impractical.”

Todd Phillips of the City Council Steering Committee spoke in favor of the resolution. Phillips told the city council that if the cruise industry were required to meet the state’s standards, “we’re done,” because of either severely shortened or canceled port calls. Ships unable to meet the new standards would have to travel out of Alaska waters to release their treated wastewater.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) released the first Large Commercial Passenger Vessel Wastewater Discharge General Permit earlier this year, as required under the cruise ship initiative voters passed in 2006. The permit includes standards for four parameters – ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc – that are much more stringent than standards imposed on coastal communities that discharge much larger volumes into Alaska waters.

The ADEC recognized that the ships would have trouble meeting the standards and in a March 2008 press release stated:

“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 … ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc.”

ADEC postponed implementation of the stricter standards until the 2010 season but the ships had difficulty meeting the interim standards during the 2008 season.

The resolutions note that “the point-of-release standards could mean that beginning in 2010, cruise ships will have to defer all discharges until they are out of Alaska waters” and that will “likely shorten the time cruise ships are in port and result in fewer ports of call, which will negatively impact Alaskan businesses.”

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