Two major bills that prohibit the discharge of sewage and wastewater in California's coastal waters took another crucial step toward becoming law, passing through the state Senate Appropriations Committee. International ocean conservation group Oceana praised the committee's action today and called for swift final passage of the legislation. The bill now advances to the Senate floor.
Oceana, which in May won an 11-month campaign to force Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to install Advanced Wastewater Treatment technology fleet-wide, has been fiercely advocating for stronger state and federal cruise pollution laws. Current law allows the cruise industry to dump graywater anywhere, while sewage is only required to be treated within three miles of shore by ineffective Marine Sanitation Devices.
"Cruise ships have long benefited from legal loopholes that allow them to dump inadequately treated sewage and wastewater virtually anywhere they want, often right in port," said Dana DuBose, director of Oceana's Los Angeles office. "These bills close the loopholes for ships touring California waters."
Today the committee passed AB 2672, introduced by state Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-21st, which prohibits the discharge of sewage from cruise ships into California state waters. Last week the committee passed AB 2093, introduced by state Assemblyman George Nakano, D-53rd, which sets the same limitations on graywater, dirty water from laundries, showers, sinks and kitchens.
"This legislation sends a clear message to the cruise ship industry: we want your business but not your sewage," said Assemblyman Simitian. "California's coastal waters belong to everyone and are far too important for needless pollution."
California has the second largest cruise ship market in the United States, and the industry expects the number of ship visits (nearly 800 in 2003) to increase by 25 percent during the next decade. Cruise ships generate an astonishing amount of pollution: up to 25,000 gallons of sewage and 200,000 gallons of graywater daily. Untreated graywater and inadequately treated sewage puts the coastal environment at risk from the threat of bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals from these waste streams. Such pollution contributes to beach closures, coral reef destruction and other marine problems.
Though cruise ship waste volumes can equal those of a small city, the cruise ship industry is exempt from Clean Water Act requirements that apply to municipalities and land-based industries. Cruise ships are not required to monitor or report waste discharged into the oceans, and are exempt from California water quality standards. Cruise lines have paid more that $40 million in fines and penalties since 1999 for violating the few federal laws that do regulate cruise pollution.
"Today these bills cleared yet another hurdle. We urge the legislature to pass them quickly so they can be signed into law by the governor," said DuBose.