OMB approval advances cruise ship discharge study

WATER POLLUTION: (12/18/2008)
Katherine Boyle, E&E reporter

The White House Office of Management and Budget yesterday gave its approval to a contentious U.S. EPA report examining cruise ship waste streams and the effectiveness of different regulatory measures.

In 2000, the environmental advocacy group Bluewater Network, which later merged with Friends of the Earth, requested the study in a petition to EPA and later sued the agency to hasten its release.

The text of the report will not be available until it is approved by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. The agency is under a court-ordered deadline to issue the report by the end of the year.

Marcie Keever, the clean vessels campaign director for Friends of the Earth, said the group expects the final report to be similar to a draft version issued at the end of 2007.

“The news was not good,” Keever said. “Cruise ship sewage and wastewater discharge are extremely polluted and continue to be so.”

Keever said Friends of the Earth wants EPA to better regulate discharges. “If EPA is not going to act, Congress should,” she said.

Friends of the Earth plans to use the study to inform national cruise ship legislation that the group is working on with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.).

The draft report examined five primary cruise ship waste streams: sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid waste and hazardous waste.

The study looked at the nature and volume of the waste stream generated; existing federal regulations applicable to the waste stream; environmental management, including treatment, of the waste stream; potential adverse environmental impacts of the waste stream; and actions by the federal government to address the waste stream.

EPA plans to use the data on sewage and graywater as it decides whether to revise or create additional standards regarding cruise ship wastewater dumped in Alaskan waters. An omnibus spending bill enacted by Congress in 2000 included new statutory requirements for sewage and graywater released near Alaska and gave EPA the authority to amend those standards.

Mandated improvements could include upgrades to advanced wastewater treatment systems that would improve the quality of treated effluent in terms of nutrients, metals and temperature. The technological upgrades would require adaptation of cruise ships’ designs and material, but EPA has said they are “potentially feasible,” as they have been used in other shipboard applications.

The study also examined the effects of oily bilge water and solid and hazardous waste on ocean life and human health and the effectiveness of cruise ship treatment of the discharge (E&ENews PM, Dec. 20, 2007)

~ by fredfelleman on December 18, 2008.

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