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Congress starts pushing to get cruise industry to clean up its act

Posted Oct. 20, 2009 / Posted by: RConnors

Princessl Cruise in SeattleEarlier today Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2009 with 28 other members of Congress signed on in support. Cruise ships are currently allowed to dump raw sewage and other pollutants just three nautical miles from our coasts. The Clean Cruise Ship Act will put a stop to the lax pollution disposal practices of the cruise industry and protect our coastal waters and oceans.

Cruise ships release vast quantities of pollution into our coastal and ocean waters. In one week, an average-size 3,000 passenger cruise ship can produce over 200,000 gallons of sewage; one million gallons of contaminated water from kitchens, laundries, and shower drains; and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water -- enough polluted water to fill more than 50 backyard swimming pools!

Under current law, cruise ships are allowed to discharge minimally treated sewage within three nautical miles of shore and raw sewage just beyond three nautical miles. Gray water, which EPA has found to contain many of the same contaminants as sewage, can also be discharged untreated just one nautical mile from shore.

Bull Shark DuetThese pollution discharges can contain pollutants including fecal bacteria, viruses, pathogens, nutrients, hazardous waste and pharmaceuticals, all of which can be harmful to human health and aquatic life. Polluted water can pose a risk to human health through the consumption of contaminated seafood or through contact with or swallowing contaminated water while swimming, surfing, or engaging in other water sports. These pollutants can also be harmful to the very pristine environments vacationers seek to enjoy.

The Clean Cruise Ship Act, introduced by Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) would put a stop the irresponsible disposal practices of the cruise industry by setting up coastal protective zones where cruise ships would not be allowed to discharge pollution. The bill would also set higher standards for discharges farther from our coastlines and set up a monitoring and enforcement program to ensure that cruise lines are complying with the law.

The Clean Cruise Ship Act

  • Prohibits the discharge of sewage, graywater, and bilge water out to 12 nautical miles and in no-discharge zones such as marine protected areas.
  • Prohibits the discharge of sewage sludge, incinerator ash, and hazardous waste within 200 nautical miles of the U.S. coastline. Sludge, incinerator ash, and hazardous waste must be offloaded at an appropriate land-based facility.
  • Requires EPA to establish effluent standards for sewage, graywater, and bilge water discharges from 12 to 200 nautical miles. These effluent limits must be consistent with best available technology.
  • Establishes a monitoring, sampling, reporting and inspection program with unannounced annual inspections and samples.
  • Establishes an observer program for monitoring discharges (one observer per ship).
  • Establishes the Cruise Vessel Pollution Control Fund to carry out the programs in the Act. The fund is comprised of reasonable and appropriate fees collected from cruise vessels for each paying passenger.

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