Cruise ships in Alaska may have to veer from their current routes in order to discharge their treated wastewater outside of Alaska state waters, due to new standards the state is imposing.

Starting this year, cruise ships must obtain discharge permits allowing them to emit treated waste in state waters, as part of the citizens ballot initiative voted into law in 2006. However, the cruise ships are currently unable to comply with the standards to obtain those permits because they do not have the technology to comply, said John Binkley, president of the Alaska Cruise Association.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) gave the cruise ships currently sailing in Alaska a two-year grace period to meet those requirements, but Binkley said that the limits on trace metal are so stringent, no ship could meet them. He called the limit on the amount of trace copper in the water unreasonable, and that ADEC has found no evidence of it being harmful to the water supply.

"We can not meet the limits that were imposed despite the fact that we invested over $200 million in advanced wastewater treatment systems," Binkley said, referring to cruise lines' compliance with a 2002 Alaska law requiring them to upgrade their water treatment systems.

"It defies common sense," he said of the trace metals limit. "Even drinking water that we purchase from communities in Southeast Alaska will not meet the discharge limit we are being held to."

Binkley said he is hoping for a "legislative fix" to the issue. If that doesn't happen, cruise lines may have to alter their itineraries in order to leave Alaska waters which could mean less time in ports, he said.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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