Cruise line’s dumping fine inflated — but company pays it anyway

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/300871_cruise24.html

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By ROBERT MCCLURE
P-I REPORTER

One unusual thing and one really unusual thing happened on the way to settling the state’s case against Celebrity Cruises for dumping more than half a million gallons of untreated wastewater:

First, the company said Department of Ecology inspectors incorrectly charged the cruise line with three of the 10 instances cited — and the department agreed, reducing the penalty from $100,000 to $70,000.

Then something stranger happened: Celebrity Cruises said, That’s OK, we’ll pay the extra $30,000, anyway.

“The money has never been an issue,” said Michael Sheehan, a spokesman for the Miami-based cruise line. “We have taken responsibility for this situation very publicly from the beginning. We just wanted to make sure everyone was dealing with accurate information, and that has happened.”

The money will be used for environmental restoration projects, Ecology said Tuesday.

As for the company forking over the extra $30,000, Ecology inspector Amy Jankowiak, who uncovered the dumping, said, “I think it’s a first.

“It definitely is unusual. We’re not used to that.”

Sheehan said Celebrity volunteered to pay the extra $30,000 “as a show of good faith.” The company said the gesture “further demonstrates our commitment to preserving and protecting Washington’s marine environment.”

Previously, the company had fired the environmental-compliance officer on the cruise ship Mercury, hired a consultant to investigate the incidents and committed to spend $4 million on improved wastewater treatment for the vessel.

Ecology announced in November that the Mercury had violated an agreement with the state in 10 incidents of dumping in the Strait of Juan de Fuca – some just a few miles from commercial shellfish beds.

Most of the dumping involved untreated wastewater from the showers, sinks and laundry of the ship, although some treated sewage also was discharged. The dumping occurred in the autumn of 2005 and was discovered by Ecology inspectors in September 2006.

No dumping is allowed in Washington waters unless the waste has been specially treated.

The proposed $100,000 fine – the maximum allowable – was the first of its kind issued under a 2004 agreement among cruise lines, the state and the Port of Seattle, where cruise ships dock.

Celebrity Cruises in December appealed to Ecology to set aside the $30,000 of the fine imposed for three dumping incidents it said occurred in Canadian waters. Ecology inspectors misunderstood the longitude and latitude notation system used on the vessel, it said.

In its announcement on Tuesday, Ecology agree that it had misread the vessel’s log book – but noted that the company did not volunteer that information until after Ecology had announced the higher fine.

Fred Felleman, a Seattle marine activist who serves as a consultant to the environmental group Bluewater Network, said the incident points up the failings of a system in which cruise ships are supposed to self-report their dumping.

Felleman said the Port of Seattle should force the cruise ships to agree, as a condition for docking here, that if they are caught repeatedly dumping in Washington waters they can be banned from picking up passengers here.

Celebrity’s admission of dumping in Canadian waters, right by U.S. waters, touched off criticism in Canada, although the discharges were legal there.

“What does this say about the nature of this business if it’s OK to use Canada as a dumping ground? Is this really protective of whales and salmon? I suggest no,” Felleman said. “Ultimately, we need to have uniform standards throughout the transit between Alaska and Washington.”

And as for Celebrity’s willingness to pay the extra $30,000?

“It’s a totally upstanding thing for them to do, but I don’t want their money,” Felleman said. “I would prefer for us to be $100,000 poorer and less polluted.”


P-I reporter Robert McClure can be reached at 206-448-8092 or robertmcclure@seattlepi.com.

© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

~ by fredfelleman on January 24, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: