Judge Calls for Deeper Look into Cruise Ship Wastewater Issue

Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage: A cruise ship docks at the end of the Homer spit over Memorial Day Weekend in May 2011.

A Juneau judge says state regulators need to take another look at cruise ship wastewater treatment systems.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ruled the Department of Environmental Conservation failed to consider stronger options for some ships.

Earthjustice Attorney Shawn Eisele says the ruling could lead to cleaner water along cruise-ship routes.

The Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters and Friends of the Earth challenged the wastewater permit system through an administrative appeal. That failed and they took it to state court.

The ruling, issued as of June 6, poses a series of questions that the state must answer. It also reverses DEC’s rejection of the groups’ administrative appeal.

State Attorney Ruth Hamilton Heese says officials are reviewing the judge’s decision.

She says the state has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision to Alaska’s Supreme Court. It would not start considering issues raised by the environmental groups until that decision is made.

The industry has said cruise lines are doing the best they can and discharge far less pollution than municipalities. Meanwhile, a state science panel is studying technologies that could improve treatment.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.

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