California Passes Legislation to Stop Cruise Ship Sewage Dumping | Oceana

California Passes Legislation to Stop Cruise Ship Sewage Dumping

Press Release Date: October 5, 2009

Location: Washington


Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

The California legislature has sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger three bills that would give that state the nation’s tightest controls over cruise ship sewage dumping in coastal waters, eclipsing Alaska, the only other state with strict cruise pollution laws, and far outpacing lax federal regulations that do little to protect the oceans.

International ocean conservation group Oceana, which recently won an important victory against Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises, urged the governor to quickly sign the bills into law. California has the second-largest cruise ship market in the nation, after Florida.

In May, after an 11-month campaign, Oceana persuaded Royal Caribbean, the world’s second-largest cruise ship company, to agree to install advanced wastewater treatment technology fleet-wide. Oceana has been fiercely advocating for stronger state and federal cruise pollution laws. Current law allows the cruise industry to dump so-called “graywater” (sewage from kitchens, sinks and showers) anywhere, while sewage from toilets is only required to be treated if it’s dumped within three miles of shore, and even then, by antiquated and ineffective marine sanitation devices.

“This legislation stops cruise ship dumping in state waters. It sends a clear message that cruise ships are welcome in California so long as they leave their wastes behind. Ocean and coastal waters are too important for Californians to allow needless pollution,” said Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-21st, author of AB 2672, which bans cruise ships from dumping sewage from toilets within three miles of shore.

The legislature approved AB 2672 on Aug. 20, along with another bill, AB 471, also written by Simitian, which bans cruise ships from incinerating waste off California’s coast. The third bill, AB 2093, by Assemblyman George Nakano, D-53rd, prohibits cruise ships from dumping sewage from kitchens, sinks, and showers in state waters. It was approved today.

“We congratulate Assemblymen Nakano and Simitian and the California legislature for finally addressing the growing problem of cruise pollution,” said Dana DuBose, director of Oceana’s Southern California office. “Californians take great pride in their coast and coastal waters. Now they can be equally proud of their legislators for protecting them.”

A single large cruise ship can carry up to 5,000 people and generate an astonishing amount of pollution: up to 25,000 gallons of sewage from toilets and 200,000 gallons of sewage from kitchens, sinks and showers every day. Inadequately treated sewage puts the coastal environment at risk due to the threat of bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals. Such pollution contributes to beach closures, coral reef destruction and other serious marine problems.

Although cruise ship waste volumes can equal those of a small city, the cruise 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 dumped into the oceans and are exempt from California water quality standards. Cruise lines have paid more that $40 million in cumulative fines and penalties since 1999 for violating the few federal laws that do regulate cruise pollution.

“The legislature has done its part, now it’s up to the governor to enact these laws,” said DuBose. “These bills are consistent with the governor’s proposed action plan to clean up ocean waters. Based on that strategy and his strong support for protecting ocean and coastal waters, we are confident that he will sign these bills into law.”

Some facts at a glance:

    * In 2003, California enacted legislation to ban cruise ship dumping of hazardous wastes, sewage sludge and oily bilge water.
    * California ports experienced nearly 10 percent growth in cruise embarkations in 2002. The port of Los Angeles, California’s largest, had 538,000 embarkations that year; the port of San Diego had the state’s strongest growth, a 31 percent increase.
    * The cruise industry expects the number of ship visits to California (nearly 800 in 2003) to increase by 25 percent during the next decade.