Several Alaska representatives, senators, commissioners and legislative staffers attended a ship tour on July 20 aboard the Coral Princess.
Gov. Sarah Palin signed into law HB 134 which extends the time large ships have to meet water quality discharge standards significantly more restrictive than those imposed on other dischargers.
The legislation is a compromise from a bill originally introduced by Rep. John Harris and co-sponsored by 12 other representatives. It also establishes a science advisory panel on wastewater treatment and effluent quality.
“We thank Rep. Harris and his colleagues for their hard work on this legislation, which recognizes that the large cruise ships currently have the best waste water treatment systems in the state, ,” said John Binkley, President, Alaska Cruise Association.
“This legislation makes it possible for the ships to spend more time in Alaska port cities and less time sailing into federal waters to discharge wastewater the state acknowledges is much cleaner than what coastal communities discharge .”
In 2006, Alaska voters approved the cruise ship initiative that, among other things, amended the law to require vessels to meet water quality standards at the point of discharge. Municipal wastewater systems and discharges from other commercial entities commonly use mixing zones, and smaller-sized vessels in Alaska are exempt.
In 2008, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a general permit for all large cruise ships that provided a two-year period for vessels to meet standards at the point of discharge. DEC has also conducted a cruise ship technology conference on available treatments for discharges of ammonia and dissolved metals. All sides on this issue agree that technology is unavailable now for onboard treatment of wastewater that allows vessels to meet all water quality standards at the point of discharge.
HB 134 addresses how the agency will permit wastewater discharges from vessels to allow for the time it takes to get the technology developed and installed onboard. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the bill was to form a science panel. This group of informed individuals will report back to the commissioner and legislature on appropriate recommendations on treatment levels.
“We appreciate the legislature and Governor making decisions based on science and not politics.”