State curbs pollution from cruise ships

Oct. 1, 2004

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed three bills that would increase curbs on cruise ship pollution near the California coastline.

The third and most stringent of the bills, signed late Friday, bans the release of sewage, both treated and untreated, into state waters.

The bill was backed by environmentalists, but opposed by the International Council for Cruise Lines, which represents about 80% of the industry.

Michael Crye, the council's president, said the new law ignores the new technology the industry uses to treat sewage. Those wastewater purification systems "discharge water that is close to drinking-water quality," Crye said.

Bans on sewage dumping must be approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency before they can take effect, unless the state Water Resources Control Board determines that an application to the EPA is not required.

On Thursday, Schwarzenegger signed a bill that bans the discharge of "gray water" from cruise ship kitchens, laundries and showers into state waters, which extend three miles from shore. He also signed a second bill that prohibits luxury liners from burning garbage in on-board incinerators while they are in state waters. Both laws are scheduled to go into effect on Jan 1.

The new California laws go beyond federal law, which prohibits cruise ships from dumping untreated sewage in state waters, but allows the discharge of treated sewage and gray water anywhere, including ports and harbors.

In April this year, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Monterey, introduced the federal Clean Cruise Ship Act, which would ban discharges by cruise ships within 12 miles of the coast. The cruise industry opposes the legislation.

Calls to regulate cruise ships have been fueled by the rapid expansion of an industry that operates largely outside national borders. The industry has grown by about 12% annually for the past three years, and generated more than $25 billion in "total U.S. economic impact" in 2003, according to the ICCL.

Cruise ship stops have increased by 50% in California over the past two years, and about 45 ships are expected to make more than 600 port calls this year, according to the Bluewater Network, which sponsored the bills.

The latest push to regulate the industry in California began after a luxury liner several miles off shore dumped about 36,000 gallons of sewage and other wastewater into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in October 2002.

Source: EPA

Image courtesy Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ).
All images courtesy of Ecosorb.