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Oct 232009

From Green Right Now Reports

One could count a thousand ways humans have soiled the planet, from shearing off mountaintops to mine coal to dredging the bottom of the ocean with heavy, coral-destroying equipment.

cruise_ship2Congress zeroed in on one needless wave of destruction this past week, introducing legislation in both houses to stop cruise ships from releasing untreated sewage into the ocean.

The Senate’s Clean Cruise Ship Act, proposed by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would extend the Clean Water Act to regulate the millions of gallons of waste water from cruise ships. The net effect would be a ban on the release of raw, untreated sewage.

In the House, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) introduced nearly identical legislation.

In the US, nearly 10 million people vacation aboard cruise liners that dump sewage into the ocean.

According to a news release from Durbin’s office, a single cruise ship can release more than 200,000 gallons of human sewage, one million gallons of gray water from kitchens and bathrooms and 10,000 gallons of sewage sludge each week.

Not to mention the small, but significant disgorging of hazardous waste and oily bilge. (Can we pause here for a collective “ick”?!)

Currently, this waste is regulated in some coastal regions, but unevenly so. Durbin’s Clean Cruise Ship Act would amend the Clean Water Act to:

  • Place cruise ships under the EPA guidelines for pollution discharges (much as industries are).
  • Prohibit the discharge of sewage, graywater and bilge water within 12 miles of shore
  • Require state-of-the-art treatment of waste water that is to be released outside the 12 mile perimeter – Prohibit any dumping of sewage sludge, incinerator ash and hazardous waste in US waters
  • Set up inspection and onboard observation to monitor the program.Durbin’s bill also would strengthen discharge requirements for cruise ships operating in the Great Lakes, holding them to the same 12 mile prohibition zone and requiring them to update their technology to treat sewage and gray water before it is discharged into the lakes.

Durbin’s office reports that several environmental groups support his bill, including: Friends of the Earth; Earthjustice; Oceana; Surfrider; Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters; and Northwest Environmental Advocates.