BC is the cruise industry’s toilet

The Vancouver Sun story below should be filed under “we told you so”. The CCPA released a few papers on this very issue by Ross Klein, a Newfoundland-based cruise ship expert. The most recent was sixteen months ago, and focussed specifically on the BC industry. Here is what it said:

BC also risks becoming the toilet of the Pacific Northwest, as it is far behind neighbouring US jurisdictions in setting and enforcing environmental standards for the cruise industry. Alaska, California and Washington states have all made moves to protect their marine environments, and have been successful in reducing environmental impacts. BC waters, on the other hand, are under federal jurisdiction, and Transport Canada says it will be 2010 or later before mandatory regulations governing cruise ship discharges are implemented.

The front page Vancouver Sun story:

B.C. waters a free toilet for U.S. cruise ships

A U.S. cruise line fined $100,000 US for discharging untreated effluent into waters off the coast of Washington state would have got off scot-free had the effluent been discharged into Canadian waters, a company official said Wednesday.

Celebrity Cruises received the fine from the Washington state Department of Ecology for discharging untreated wastewater into Washington waters on 10 separate occasions in September and October of 2005. But the company’s director of environmental programs, Rich Pruitt, said if the discharges had occurred in Canadian waters, they would have been perfectly legal.

“If they had all been in Canadian territorial waters, then they would have complied with Canadian guidelines,” Pruitt said.

Officials at Transport Canada confirmed that, saying Canada has only unenforceable guidelines surrounding the discharge of waste water into Canadian oceans, and no system of fines or penalties.

… Celebrity Cruises, which is based in Miami, Fla., has asked officials to reduce the $100,000 penalty because it believed that three of the 10 discharges took place in Canadian waters.It claims navigational notations by Washington state officials led them to conclude incorrectly that all 10 discharges took place in Washington water.

The material in question consisted mainly of so-called “grey water,” meaning waste water from the ship’s showers, sinks, galleys and laundry, Pruitt said. But it also included some treated sewage, or “black water.”

According to proposed new Canadian government regulations introduced in July, ships over 400 tonnes will no longer be allowed to dump raw sewage directly into the sea within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) of Canada’s coast.

But Transport Canada has no rules governing the disposal of grey water or treated black water, only voluntary guidelines. They say the ship must be moving at a speed of not less than six knots, that it not be in port and that it not be within four nautical miles of the coast.

However, because they are only guidelines, there is no penalty for failing to obey them, said Transport Canada spokesman Rod Nelson. For that reason, Ross Klein, a professor of sociology at Memorial University in Newfoundland who has written three books on the cruise ship industry, calls B.C. “the toilet between Alaska and Washington State.”

“[Canadian governments] basically look the other way,” Klein said.

“The way they justify it is that Victoria dumps untreated sewage into the ocean, so how can they regulate the cruise industry?”

He said there have even been times when cruise ships have dumped untreated waste water into Canadian oceans and reported it.

“But nothing was done about it,” Klein added.

“To find there’s nothing there in terms of managing this issue shows it’s even worse than I thought,” Lash said. “If they’re dumping into waters here and contaminating them, that’s a real problem.”

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