February 12, 2013


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Dilution is the solution for pollution sums up the Parnell Administration policy when it comes to cruise ship discharges in Alaska waters.  The legislature is set to vote this week on a bill to repeal a 2006 citizens’ initiative that requires cruise ships to meet Alaska water quality standards at the point of discharge, and instead creates mixing zones for dumping sewage, hazardous chemicals and other wastes. Alaskans won’t know where those zones are, as House Republicans rejected amendments to require disclosure of the locations. Fish Radio asked the Governor what he has to say in defense of his stance.

 Cut:  I would say that the standards to which cruise ships are currently being held, and will continue to be held with their advanced wastewater treatment systems, are among or surpass the most stringent in the world.  I would say that the Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s   ability to regulate in accordance with federal and state law, and the stipulations they put on the mixing zones require that marine species not be harmed. I would just say that voters were likely unaware that there is no technology available, and the science advisory panel agrees, that would meet the point of discharge standards that have been set.   In the balance of protecting the environment and ensuring that our small businesses can still get the benefits of a million cruise ship passengers spending money in our economy, we are making sure that cruise ships will continue to be held to the highest standards, that the environment will continue to be protected, and that our businesses will continue to grow.  

 Fish Radio posed the same questions to Representative Dan Saddler of Eagle River, co-chair of the House Resources Committee.

 Cut:  I would say that their aspirations to protect the health of the resource have been heard, and they made a very good faith effort to see if they were achievable in the real world, practically, effectively and economically.  They established very strict standards for cruise ships that are not required of other shore based dischargers, and of course, fishing boats and ferries don’t have to follow those standards either. So I think the science panel found out that the ships were able to use the advanced waste water treatment systems to meet all Alaska water quality criteria, except four, and those were met shortly after discharge in a mixing zone.  (The four are ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc).   What I would say to people in the seafood industry – frankly, I am concerned about the way the issue has been characterized and maybe exaggerated between dirty and clean.   Advanced waste water treatment systems provide very good treatment for discharges by cruise ships, more so than fishing boats and ferries and shore based. So the more it’s hyped up as being dirty water and terrible discharges, I think to some degree the industry may be harming itself with the focus on that.

 The Alaska legislature is set to vote on the measure this week.

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