Cruise ships to face stricter air monitoring

Public can offer comments next week on pollution control

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

A month of intensive air-quality monitoring is planned near the cruise ship dock this summer, under an arrangement forged by a group including a cruise industry representative and state and federal regulators.

The Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative, formed in December, was to release four committee reports today, with a day of public comment scheduled for May 17 at Centennial Hall.

Convened by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the initiative includes the North West CruiseShip Association, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Southeast Conference, a nonprofit organization of business and government leaders.

According to an executive summary for the committee reports released by DEC at mid-morning, the steering committee for the group has decided on:

An analysis of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrous oxides in downtown Juneau -- a more exacting process than was involved in the recent EPA citations for violations by six cruise lines last summer of the federal air opacity standards.

A survey on waste discharges and waste-handling practices for all cruise ships.

Random, third-party wastewater analysis of all ships throughout the season.

Proposals and pilot projects from the industry for several new technologies, including ultra-filtration of ``gray water'' from sinks and showers and nontoxic dry-cleaning processes.

An operations plan for eight new oil-spill recovery barges being financed and deployed in Southeast by the cruise industry.

There also will be one or more ``cruise ship awareness'' events during the summer, with a give-and-take between members of the initiative group and the public.

At the end of the cruise ship season, a report will be issued explaining the data gathered. The initiative then would ``determine whether additional activity is necessary, including the possibility of similar monitoring efforts in other communities,'' according to today's report.

``I think that the significance is that we're going to be doing things differently this year -- both the cruise ships and us,'' said Mary Siroky of DEC.

The voluntary, cooperative nature of the steering committee discussions assures a better outcome than just a traditional regulatory approach, Siroky said. Still, ``If we determine there's problems, we'll be taking means to correct those problems.''

Funding responsibilities for the monitoring programs haven't all been sorted out yet, but the work will go forward, she said.

Dean Brown, president of Princess Tours, was part of the steering committee, representing the cruise ship association.

Association President John Hansen said it's been ``a good process,'' in which both sides ``got a better understanding all around.''

A breakdown of international and national regulations and the roles played by various regulatory bodies has been helpful to the industry, Hansen said from Vancouver, British Columbia. As for the monitoring, he said: ``We will be paying for some of it.''

``We've been pleased to participate in the process,'' said Kirby Day, director of operations for Princess Tours in Juneau. ``We want to make sure we're operating environmentally friendly up here.''

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