Critics say pact is 'toothless,' gives
false sense of protection
By Paul Queary
OLYMPIA The state Department of Ecology has negotiated
a voluntary agreement with cruise ship lines aimed at keeping
the massive ships from dumping wastewater in Washington's
inland marine waters.
But the agreement has critics complaining that the ships
face negligible penalties if they violate the deal.
The agreement between the state and the North West CruiseShip
Association an umbrella group that represents the three
major lines that call in Seattle bars all wastewater
discharges in state waters except from vessels equipped with
advanced treatment systems certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.
It also closes an area called a "doughnut hole"
that, it can be argued, is subject to looser federal dumping
requirements designed for the deep ocean because it's more
than three miles from land.
"We were able to take some steps that will take us farther
than federal law currently takes us," said Larry Altose,
a spokesman for the Department of Ecology. "There is
a doughnut hole in between the San Juan Islands, Port Townsend
Seattle has become an increasingly popular cruise ship port
in recent years, with visits jumping from six in 1999 to about
140 this year. Regulating the waste produced by ships that
can carry as many as 5,000 passengers and crew has been the
subject of recent laws in Alaska and California, both busy
The upcoming agreement called a "memorandum of
understanding" helped derail a tougher discharge
ban proposed by Democratic lawmakers earlier this year after
the Norwegian Sun dumped 40 tons of human waste into the Strait
of Juan de Fuca in May.
Cruise lines opposed the bill, and Ecology officials said
it might disrupt a process that would provide protections
"We hope to be able to have this thing in effect before
the first cruise ship calls," Altose said.
John Hansen, president of the cruise association, praised
the agreement, likening it to the restrictions imposed in.
"The companies are investing huge amounts of money in
these upgraded wastewater systems," Hansen said. "The
wastewater that comes out of these systems is technically
very close to drinking water."
Critics, however, denounced the agreement as toothless. It's
"worse than nothing because it provides a false sense
of protection," said Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates
in Seattle. "The fact that there is no consequence to
breaking this agreement makes it meaningless."
Among the agreement's provisions:
In a one-week voyage, a ship generates about 1 million gallons
of gray water, 210,000 gallons of sewage and 35,000 gallons
of oil-contaminated water, according to the Bluewater Network,
an environmental group in Seattle. Most of that waste
some treated, some not goes into the water at some