On July 19, an unidentified murky substance filled the water in Maine’s crisp Bar Harbor, while American Cruise Lines’ (ACL) brand-new, 104-passenger Independence floated at the dock. Alerted by witnesses, local authorities conducted routine water testing, uncovering an abnormally high count of the bacteria “enterococcus.” ACL, along with the ship’s captain, denied any possibility of sewage dumping, besides gray water from showers and sinks, and consequently, legal restrictions barred the environmental agency from entering the ship to check waste valves. Though the Department of Environmental Protection claims gray water could not have raised bacteria levels by this degree, the Independence remains faultless without any tangible link to the water pollution.
Carrying upwards of 2,000 people, cruise ships produce colossal quantities of jettison, including 21,000 gallons of sewage, one ton of garbage, and up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water from engines per day (Environmental Protection Agency, Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report, 2008). Infamous for despoiling the pristine landscapes that lure passengers on board, cruise companies have waged a lengthy war with environmental agencies seeking to curb ship pollution in homeport harbors and beyond.
Coastal states like Alaska, Maine, Washington, and Hawaii have passed legislation that forbids the dumping of sewage in state waters, mandates monthly discharge testing, and restricts the use of waste incinerators up to 90 miles off the coast. However, according to FOXNews.com, vessels on the West Coast have resorted to legally dumping refuse in Canadian waters, instead. Monitoring cruise industry pollution remains a Herculean task as a result of the large-scale vigilance required.
Is American Cruise Lines to blame? Should the carrier be penalized despite the lack of hard evidence?