DEC rules protect Alaska's waters

Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The new DEC rules for wastewater from cruise ships have been appealed by an environmental group. My division issued the rules. The rules are designed to protect water quality and they do just that.

The gist of the challenge is that the rules do not require cruise ships to use the best wastewater treatment systems available. The fact is the rules require use of "advanced wastewater treatment technology," a class of wastewater treatment systems far superior to those used on other vessels or by municipal sewage treatment plants. It is the best technology available.

Use of advanced wastewater treatment technology will more than protect water quality. When the ships are underway, pollutant levels will be virtually undetectable. Due to limited flushing and mixing when the ships are in port, the rules call for even stricter limits there.

The appeal claims that one manufacturer makes a treatment system that is superior to others and demands that we require all ships to install that particular type of system. Legislation that passed in 2009 created a "science advisory panel" to evaluate whether there is a superior type of treatment technology. The appeal would have us bypass the science advisory panel altogether.

The science advisory panel could find that a particular type of advanced wastewater treatment system is better than others. It needs to be allowed to do its job before anyone starts dictating that ships replace one type of wastewater treatment system with another.

In the meantime, Alaskans can rest assured that our waters are being carefully and thoroughly protected by the new cruise ship rules.

Lynn Kent

Director, Division of Water, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

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