Coast Guard: Enforcement expected against Ryndam

Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2002

The U.S. Coast Guard will sanction a cruise line whose ship discharged partially treated sewage into Juneau's harbor last weekend, officials said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Coast Guard continue to investigate reports that the cruise ship Ryndam discharged a brown substance near the cruise ship terminal in Juneau on Saturday, Aug. 17. Officials with Holland America said Monday they were looking into why about 250 gallons of partially treated sewage spilled out of a tank vent on the cruise ship.

Cmdr. Steve Ohnstad, captain of the port for Southeast Alaska, said the Coast Guard plans to take some sort of enforcement action, but needs to finish its investigation before deciding "what type of tool to use."

Holland America has brought experts familiar with its sewage and piping systems on board the ship to figure out exactly what happened, Ohnstad said.

"We'll be putting a team on board Saturday when the vessel makes port here in Juneau and run through that with them and continue our investigation," he said Friday.

Holland America spokeswoman Rose Abello said the company will take all appropriate actions to make sure such an incident doesn't happen again.

"All of our early indications are pointing to, one, it was an accident, and two, it looks like human error," she said Friday. "We want to confirm that."

The Ryndam has an advanced wastewater treatment system. What is typically discharged is "as pure if not purer than drinking water," company vice president of compliance programs Richard Softye said last week.

DEC environmental engineer Carolyn Morehouse said lab results from the incident should available later this week. The state also has asked Holland America to respond in writing to questions about what happened.

Juneau resident Greg Fisk was walking downtown at 8 p.m. last Saturday when he first noticed the brown substance bubbling up from the ship and called authorities. It took the ship and the Coast Guard more than a hour to respond, he said. He estimates about 10,000 gallons of material spilled.

"It's certainly a lot more than has been reported by the Coast Guard or the ship. I think it's disturbing how long it took everyone to respond," he said.

Ohnstad said the Coast Guard is sticking by its earlier estimate that less than 1,000 gallons of the material spilled, although officials should know more once they look at the ship's system.

"We do respond promptly," he said. "Generally right around Juneau ... we have people on call 24 hours. Generally, we make a very quick response."

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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