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According to the Alaskan Department of Environmental Conservation, just one large cruise ship can discharge 350,000 gallons of wastewater and sewage daily, but until now, this flotilla of mostly foreign-flagged vessels has largely escaped regulation. Alaska-bound cruise ships bring an estimated 680,000 passengers a year to hundreds of port calls. As floating cities that can carry 1,000 or more passengers, these ships produce hundreds of thousands of gallons of grey-water, such as shower runoff, and black-water or human waste each day, says Represenative Eldon Mulder, co-chair of the House Finance Committee, which introduced the measure..

The new legislation would: require ships to register each year with the state and adhere to strict standards that bar discharge of water with faecal coliform bacterial counts of more than 200 colonies per millilitre, the same as federal legislation; set clear penalties for failure to comply, including fines from $500 to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $10,000 for each day the ship remained in violation; allow officials with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to directly oversee mandatory monitoring testing of sink runoff and sewage; and require the independent laboratories performing test sample analysis to provide the results to the DEC to ensure public accountability.

“Clean oceans and pure water are critical to Alaska, not just to the visitor industry, but to everyone in the state,” said Mulder. “The compromise measure will go a long way toward making sure Alaskans and visitors alike can trust that our marine environment will remain clean for generations to come.”

The proposed legislation has one further hurdle to get over, the State Senate, before the legislative session ends this week. The measure, if passed, is expected to be signed by Governor Tony Knowles, who has already expressed his support. The measure would take effect 1 July and be phased in over two years.

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