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The Olympic Coast is protected from cruise ship sewage—Puget Sound should be too

Posted Feb. 2, 2012 / Posted by: Marcie Keever

Cruise ship pollution poses a significant threat to marine resources. While treatment is required to discharge sewage and other wastewater, the U.S. EPA has found that older ship sewage treatment systems discharge highly concentrated wastewater in excess of federal water quality standards. Friends of the Earth believes that cruise ships should not be able to discharge any sewage or other polluted wastewater (treated or not) in any National Marine Sanctuary and, for that matter, near shore or in enclosed or impaired water bodies.

Our National Marine Sanctuaries are the marine equivalent of our national parks. Sanctuary habitats include coral and rocky reefs, ocean gardens and kelp forests, whale migrations corridors, deep sea canyons and safe habitat for endangered species. Friends of the Earth has been working for the past 10 years to protect our sanctuary waters from cruise ship pollution.

The good news is that after many years of advocacy, Washington State’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has banned cruise ships from discharging sewage, graywater, oily bilge and other harmful wastewater in sanctuary ocean waters, a move that will safeguard more than 2,700 square miles of extraordinary marine resources.

Friends of the Earth—specifically Fred Felleman, our Northwest consultant—led the charge in the Olympic Coast Sanctuary and his work follows years of effort in California to successfully ban cruise ship waste discharges in the other four west coast sanctuaries; Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank. 

Now we are calling on the Port of Seattle, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Northwest & Canada Cruise Association to extend the Olympic Coast protections to Puget Sound by amended the regional agreement regarding cruise ship operations in Washington State. 

Each large cruise ship calling at the Port of Seattle is capable of generating more than one million gallons of wastewater in a single week. The port’s 2011 cruise season was more robust than expected, with 196 cruise ships bringing 885,949 passengers through the waters of the Sound between late April and early October. While none of the 14 cruise ships that call the Port of Seattle home sought permission to discharge in Puget Sound waters in 2011, there are no guaranteed protections without a permanent ban.

Friends of the Earth along with Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and People for Puget Sound succeeded in petitioning the state and cruise industry to propose an amendment to their agreement to include a cruise ship wastewater discharge ban in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  

More than 950 Friends of the Earth activists already took action to urge the state to accept our proposal for a ban on cruise ship wastewater dumping in Puget Sound and if you live in Washington State you can take action by the February 13 comment deadline to urge the Department of Ecology, Port of Seattle and Northwest & Canada Cruise Association to adopt a full cruise ship wastewater discharge ban in Puget Sound.

Photo credit: © Fred Felleman

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