Cruise ship pollution: Charleston, South Carolina

Cruise ship pollution: Charleston, South Carolina

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Charleston, South Carolina is among a number of U.S. cities that have joined the fight against the rising tide of cruise ship pollution, after being informed by the South Carolina State Ports Authority that more than double the number of cruise ships would be visiting the historic city in 2010, and that a new cruise terminal is in the works. Last year 33 cruise ships visited the port of Charleston and this year a record 67 cruise ships are expected to call on Charleston. The construction of a new cruise terminal could foster even more cruise ship traffic in the future. Cruise ships bring with them air and water pollution, and a host of other problems that will impact the people and city of Charleston and the surrounding natural environment.

CharlestonAs anyone who has ever visited Charleston will tell you, the city’s charm derives in large part from its friendly residents and the historic beauty of the small city. Unfortunately, increased cruise ship traffic would mean more vehicular and pedestrian traffic as well as increased levels of harmful pollutants released into the air and water from these ships. In addition, there are concerns about the type of tourism cruise ships would bring to the city. The city currently has a strong land based tourism trade which brings people to the city to stay in its hotels, eat at its restaurants and enjoy its historic homes and neighboring plantations. Increased cruise ship tourism would mean thousands of people disgorged into the city at any given time to spend just a few hours and correspondingly few dollars in the city. This high volume of tourists  could negatively impact the otherwise quiet charm of downtown Charleston as well as the area’s historic tourism, shellfish and fishing industries.

A single 3,000 passenger cruise ship can discharge 210,000 gallons of sewage in one week. In addition to sewage, cruise ships discharge polluted gray water, oily bilge water, sewage sludge, hazardous waste, and incinerator ash. In addition cruise ships burn dirty, bottom-of-the-barrel bunker fuel. The resulting emissions contain harmful air pollutants which cause cancer, heart disease and asthma.

Currently, cruise ships are allowed to discharge minimally treated sewage in Charleston harbor, raw untreated sewage just three nautical miles from shore, and untreated gray water just one nautical mile from shore. Sewage and gray water contain viruses, pathogens, pharmaceuticals, metals, and a host of other harmful substances.

In order to reduce and mitigate the impacts of cruise ship pollution the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League has developed a set of recommendations for cruise ships calling on the Port of Charleston.

Click here to see our Legislative Associate Neesha Kulkarni present at a cruise ship pollution forum in Charleston:

Watch part two.

NBC News on the problem:

Read about the issue in the Charleston City Paper

 AOL Travel: Are cruises ruining the world?