U.S. Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced legislation last night to force the cruise industry to stop dumping human sewage and other wastes into U.S. coastal waters.
“This bill is just in time for cruise season,” said Danielle Fugere of Friends of the Earth. “The Clean Cruise Ship Act will stop these giant ships—small floating cities with thousands of passengers – from dumping waste along our shores and threatening the very environments vacationers seek to enjoy.”
Current law allows cruise ships to dump untreated sewage as close as three miles from shore, near beachgoers and shellfish beds, endangering human health and coastal ecosystems. Representative Farr’s Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2008 would ban cruise ships from dumping sewage and other pollutants within 12 miles of shore and would require treatment of wastes beyond 12 miles. The bill will also set up an onboard observer and monitoring program.
Friends of the Earth’s Clean Vessels Campaign has long advocated strong limits on cruise ship pollution and welcomes Farr’s introduction of the bill. However, we are also working to bring this bill within the protections of the Clean Water Act.
In a 2003 report entitled America’s Living Oceans, the Pew Oceans Committee, which was commissioned by President Clinton, recommended that “Congress should enact legislation that regulates wastewater discharges from cruise ships under the Clean Water Act by establishing uniform minimum standards for discharges within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.”
"Five years after this major exposé, cruise ships are still dumping sewage along our coasts," said Fugere.
Representative Farr’s efforts are bolstered by the findings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently released Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report which found that the sewage treatment systems on board the majority of cruise ships leave large concentrations of bacteria, chlorine, nutrients, metals and other pollutants that exceed federal effluent and water quality standards and are harmful to human health and the environment when dumped into our waters. The report was issued seven years after Friends of the Earth’s Bluewater Network team and 58 other nonprofit organizations asked the EPA to regulate cruise ship pollution. After the EPA refused to respond to the groups’ request, Friends of the Earth initiated legal proceedings late last year, resulting in a settlement and EPA’s release of the report.