EPA Report Details Cruise Ship Pollution

EPA Report Details Cruise Ship Pollution

For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Marcie Keever: (415) 544-0790, ext. 23
Nick Berning: (202) 222-0748

EPA Responds to Friends of the Earth Lawsuit With Report Finding That Even Treated Cruise Ship Discharges Are Highly Polluted

WASHINGTON D.C.In response to a lawsuit from Friends of the Earth, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a final report on cruise ship pollution in U.S. waters. The report finds that cruise ships routinely dump massive amounts of poorly treated sewage and highly contaminated graywater into harbors and coastal waters.

The final report, which was made public last night, is available at http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/cruise_ships/disch_assess.html. It lists a range of potential solutions, including banning the dumping of pollutants within U.S. waters, but does not adopt any recommendations. The EPA had previously released a draft of the report a year ago.

This report shows cruise ship dumping is out of control and will only get worse as more and larger ships carry more passengers to pristine areas, said Marcie Keever, Clean Vessels Campaign Director at Friends of the Earth. This report provides the final evidence Congress needs to place strong limits on cruise ship dumping in order to protect our coasts, beaches, shellfish beds, marine ecosystems, and marine sanctuaries.

Issuance of this final report was in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Friends of the Earth by the University of Washington Environmental Law Clinic in May 2007. That suit sought a response to Friends of the Earths seven-year-old petition calling for the EPA to assess pollution being discharged from the U.S.s rapidly expanding cruise ship fleet and to implement new standards to prevent such environmental harm.

The EPAs report finds that cruise ship discharges contain concentrations of bacteria, chlorine, nutrients, metals and other pollutants that often far exceed federal effluent and water quality standards and that are harmful to human health and the marine environment. The report estimates that cruise ships produce an average of 21,000 gallons per day of sewage and 170,000 gallons per day of raw graywater that can contain as much bacteria as sewage. The report also indicates that large volumes of sewage sludge and oily water are routinely dumped from cruise ships.

The EPAs data shows that a majority of sewage samples from cruise ships equipped with Coast Guard-approved marine sanitation devices (Type II MSDs) violated national effluent limits for both ship and land-based sewage and often exceeded national water quality criteria at point of discharge. The EPA determined that treated sewage and raw graywater from cruise ships can contain such high concentrations of bacteria, such as fecal coliform, contaminants like chlorine, and nutrients including ammonia, that the discharges can degrade water quality, threaten shellfish beds, and contaminate beaches and swimming areas.

The report also found that even the highly touted Advanced Wastewater Treatment systems (AWTs) required in Alaska are far from perfect. While they produce much cleaner wastewater than traditional MSDs, treated effluent sampled by the EPA often did not meet national water quality standards at point of discharge for metals, chlorine, or nutrients such as ammonia all of which can harm the marine environment.

The EPA provided a range of options for addressing the problem of cruise ship pollution, but failed to endorse or recommend any of the options listed. The EPAs report suggests that dilution of discharges from AWTs, i.e., moving at least 6 knots while discharging waste, might prevent environmental harm. But, importantly, the report also includes an overview of equipment that would actually remove most contaminants.

We already know dilution is not the solution to pollution, said Keever. These high volumes of cruise ship waste go somewhere, simply moving faster wont solve the pollution problem. Rather, these very profitable cruise lines should be required to use technology that actually prevents the degradation of our waters.

Importantly, the EPAs Report indicates that in 2006, 23 of 28 vessels operating in Alaska used advanced wastewater treatment systems, but 60 percent of the cruise ships that travelled to Alaska this past summer using AWTs failed to meet Alaskas discharge standards and were cited for discharging water polluted with human waste and heavy metals.

The discharging of waste and pollutants from cruise ships is occurring in some of our most pristine and wild places. And the problem is growing. Many cruise ships now transport 5,000 passengers and crew and the next generation of ships is expected to carry 7,000 passengers and crew. As cruise ship size and numbers grow, so does the pollution of our treasured places.


Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org) is the U.S. voice of the worlds largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.