GOVERNOR LOCKE, did you hear the news?
Last Saturday, a passerby noticed that the water surrounding Holland-America's Westerdam cruise ship docked in Juneau, Alaska, had a strange odor and color. The U.S. Coast Guard investigated and discovered the ship had an open valve that was discharging wastewater from sinks, showers, and kitchen galleys directly into Juneau's harbor. Although the liner claimed it was an accident and closed the valve, an estimated 30 to 100 gallons of waste got dumped. Seattle-based Holland-America could be fined up to $25,000 for the dumping, according to the Coast Guard. It's the second such incident since the beginning of cruise ship season three weeks ago (see "Cruise Controls," SW, May 10).
Alaska Governor Tony Knowles has called a special session of the state Legislature to address a bill proposing more comprehensive control measures on pollution by the cruise industry and granting further jurisdiction to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Last month, when the proposed law met resistance in the House, Knowles himself contacted the CEOs of the main liners and demanded cooperation.
Meanwhile, despite the risks accompanying the increased number of cruise ships sailing from Seattle, Governor Gary Locke claims that state and local authorities cannot take action to watchdog pollution violations in Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. Enforcing the Clean Water Act in Washington waters, he says, is solely up to the Coast Guard. But even California, whose ports are located near open sea, passed a law creating a Cruise Ship Environmental Task Force.
The cruise industry claims it doesn't dump in Puget Sound, assuring the Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard that ships wait to discharge their weekly wastewater—300,000 gallons of "blackwater" from toilets and oily bilge, and a couple million gallons of "greywater" from showers, kitchen galleys, and laundry— until the ships reach Vancouver, B.C. The Port of Vancouver, however, like the Port of Seattle, has no sewage hookup; it's up to cruise ships to make arrangements for offloading the waste into trucks—the same as in Seattle. So why would the cruise ships wait to reach Canada to discharge? Perhaps because the Clean Water Act's standards don't apply north of the border.