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Alaska gov.'s plan would change cruise waste rules

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 8:05 am •  Published: January 24, 2013
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"Even without incremental improvements to cruise ship wastewater quality, aquatic life and human health are protected through provisions in the current cruise ship General Permit that restrict the location of discharge and when ships must be under way before they discharge," he wrote.

Gershon Cohen, project director with the Campaign to Safeguard America's Waters, said the proposal isn't based on the best available science.

"The best science for what puts people and marine ecosystems at risk are the Water Quality Standards," he said in an email. "Using public waters to dilute waste isn't good science, it's simply risk management. It is saying, how much risk are 'we' willing to take on to not require a polluter to clean up their discharges."

He also said a science advisory panel, "refused to acknowledge" some treatment devices work better than others and that combinations of technologies could reduce emissions below the water quality standards at a "minimum" cost to each ship.

Guy Archibald, mining and clean water coordinator for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, said he's not sure what the rush is to "rescind" the 2006 initiative, which has already been modified. For example, in 2010, the Legislature passed a reduction in the cruise passenger head tax. The move was aimed at attracting more ships — which Parnell says it has — and at settling a lawsuit with the Alaska Cruise Association, which it also did.

Cohen was kicked off the science panel after questions were raised about his objectivity — concerns he said were bogus. He said he was removed before the committee ever met because the cruise industry didn't want him on the panel.

He said no definition exists for an advanced wastewater treatment system, and he referred to mixing zones as "legalized pollution" zones.

"So much for Alaska fish being the best in the world because of our pristine waters..." he wrote in an email.

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For the text of SB29: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill_text.asp?hsid=SB0029A&session=28 .

The bill is HB80 on the House side.

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Follow Becky Bohrer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/beckybohrerap .