Alaska waste-disposal report is 'inconclusive'


NEW YORK -- An "interim summary" of waste-disposal data released earlier this month by Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found "no problems with ambient air quality in downtown Juneau," a possible improvement in overall cruise ship air emissions and "inconclusive information on wastewater discharges."

The data were compiled from Alaska-bound cruise ships during the 2001 season.

Mike Conway, a DEC spokesman, said the tests were from the first half of the season and therefore incomplete.

A report released this month by the state's Department of Environmental Conservation found a possible improvement in overall cruise ship air emissions. Above, Alaska's Inside Passage. Under a new state law sponsored by Gov. Tony Knowles and enacted earlier this year, cruise ships sailing in Alaska are required to sample their waste water, analyze it and report results back to the DEC.

Under the law, cruise ships that cannot meet "black water" (raw waste water) treatment standards must discharge at least three miles from Alaska shores.

"We committed to release midseason data, [but] we're waiting for the rest of the picture before drawing conclusions," according to Conway.

Most of the testing was done under a voluntary monitoring program in effect before July 1, Conway said.

He also acknowledged that "until new waste-water treatment systems using state-of-the-art technology are installed and proven," more than half of the large Alaska-bound ships are legally discharging blackwater outside the three-mile limit, leaving them out of the monitoring program, as well. In all, 13 of 24 vessels are not participating in the monitoring program.

"Fewer ships are discharging wastewater into the waters of the Inside Passage this season," according to David Rogers, deputy director of DEC's air and water quality division.

"We'll know more when the final data is in and analyzed at the end of the season," he added.

The report also revealed:

• DEC is reviewing 19 of 238 smokestack opacity readings for potential violations. The readings were taken in Juneau, Skagway and Haines.

• Twenty-nine wastewater samples from holding tanks of five ships show "considerable variability in conventional pollutants."


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