Cruise ship wastewater panel meets in Juneau

The Holland America Line's Zuiderdam, right, and Westerdam pull into Juneau's downtown harbor on Monday. The Cruise Ship Waste Water Science Advisory Panel met in Juneau for three days last week for their sixth meeting of the year.

The Cruise Ship Wastewater Science Advisory Panel reviewed a draft statement to be presented to the Alaska State Legislature in 2013 when its members met in Juneau Sept. 19 – 21. The panel also spent a day answering public questions and collecting public comments.


The panel was convened in 2009 by the Legislature to consider use of technology to meet water quality standards for release of treated wastewater from cruise ships visiting Alaskan waters. A public initiative passed in 2006 required wastewater standards to be met at the point of discharge. The Legislature eased the requirements and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation re-wrote the cruise industry’s wastewater permit in 2010 to allow for dilution before pollutant levels are tested.

The panel’s draft recommendation to the Legislature concluded that new technologies would not create a significant difference to pollution levels at the point of discharge. Water quality discharge levels can only be met currently through a mixing zone that flows down the side of the ship and is churned up in the trailing wake.

The draft statement does not include response to public comment.

Supporters of Alaska’s wastewater testing program were joined by some with questions about certain panel assumptions during public comment on the second and third day of the meetings.

David A. Wetzel is the owner and president of Admiralty Environmental, the company that does wastewater monitoring for cruise ships in Alaska.

He said he was impressed with the effort and the conclusions of the science panel.

“There is a remarkable amount of consistency between the different systems out there and how well they are treating the water,” Wetzel said. “That speaks a lot the efforts the ships are making and making sure they are using the systems right.”

Wetzel said he encourages the panel to maintain its stance of looking for reasonable regulations that are going to provide the greatest environmental benefit at this point.

Local activists Chip Thoma with Responsible Cruising of Alaska and Joe Geldhof requested the cruise industry dump waste in Juneau's upcoming municipal treatment system or, barring that, dump offshore to mitigate impact to waters in the inside passage. Thoma questioned the panel’s finding that dilution of pollutants is the right way to deal with wastewater discharge.

Guy Archibald, Mining and Clean Water Coordinator for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council said the panel failed to consider several issues such as whether the released pollutants end up in ocean sediment or the tissues of marine organisms, what affect wastewater discharge has on the image of wild Alaska seafood and to the health of a population whose diet is heavily dependent on seafood, among other concerns.

The panel expects to have a final draft of its statement to the Legislature by late October.

On a parallel track, the ADEC cruise ship wastewater program plans to work on a new wastewater permit for the 2013 cruise season. The permitting process will include public comment. Rob Edwardson ADEC cruise ship program manager said the agency plans to have the permit finalized before the current permit expires in April 2013.

The panel is made up of an international group of scientists and industry leaders:

• Mark Buggins, environmental superintendent of a coastal Alaska city.

• Kenneth J. Fisher, P.E. U.S. Public Health Service Engineer Officer and senior representative to the State of Alaska with the Environmental Protection Agency's, Alaska Operations Office.

• Reinaldo A. González, Ph.D. environmental engineer.

• Juha Kiukas, managing director for a firm specializing in Marine Environmental Consulting to wastewater treatment system suppliers and cargo, ferries, and cruise ships operators.

• Lincoln Loehr, environmental compliance analyst for the law firm of Stoel Rives LLP in Seattle.

• Steve Reifenstuhl, executive director for a fisheries conservation alliance.

• Michelle Ridgway, a marine ecologist, owner of Oceanus Alaska Marine Ecological Services and founder of Alaska Deep Ocean Science Institute.

• Bert Sazon, senior marine inspector in Sector Juneau's Vessel Inspections Division.

• Silke Schiewer, Ph.D. associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

• Simon Véronneau, Ph.D. associate researcher at the HEC Montreal Supply Chain Research Group and the inter-university research center on enterprise networks, logistics and transportation.

• Thomas Weigend, naval architect and head of the Sales and Design Department of Meyer Werft.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at

Cruise season ends as new wastewater permit begins
2010 ADEC cruise ship wastewater permit
Panel member biographical information


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