Hydrocarbon, Wastewater + Runoff Pollution

April 2, 2023

Golden Princess - Alaska (by Jasperdo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).

Cruise Ship Invasion Interactive Feature – Hakai

Elizabeth Burton, a Seattle-based activist with the organization Seattle Cruise Control, calculated that the total climate impact of a typical Alaska cruising season, beginning and ending in Seattle (including flights), is equivalent to one-third of the city’s entire annual carbon emissions…

After a one-year pandemic pause and a limited season in 2021, cruises to Alaska resumed and surged in popularity in 2022.

This year, an estimated 700,000 passengers will depart Seattle, Washington, on hundreds of different cruises. These travelers voyage on increasingly massive ships—some about three sport fields in length—that can house, feed, and process the waste of upward of 4,000 human beings.

Touted as inexpensive, all-inclusive vacations, cruises deliver thousands of people to the glaciers, fjords, and small towns of southeast Alaska. They are an integral part of the Pacific Northwest’s tourism economy, but they come with environmental and human costs.

Carbon emissions, wastewater discharges, engine and propeller noise, mountains of trash, and an influx of visitors have a cumulative impact on ecosystems and tiny communities…

The Port of Seattle is aware of the pollution caused by idling diesel engines while a cruise ship is in port. “We have to keep being absolutely vigilant about the environmental impacts,” says Stephanie Jones Stebbins, the port’s managing director of maritime operations.

But how green is the port? Seattle offers plug-in electric power at one of its cruise terminals and is aiming to have its second terminal plug-in ready for the 2024 season. Yet only 37 percent of cruise ships used this option in 2021, and as of August 2022, this usage had declined to 24 percent. So the majority of ships idle their diesel engines for nine to 11 hours while passengers snap photos at Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.

Once the Oceanic Topaz departs Seattle, it glides north through Puget Sound and the Juan de Fuca Strait. As the ship, which is in the midsize range for those heading to Alaska, passes through the shadow of the Olympic Mountains, its 3,600 passengers go about their daily business, flushing toilets, showering, and brushing teeth.

Each passenger will produce a daily average of 30 liters of sewage—also known as black water—and about 250 liters of wastewater from showers, pools, laundry, and other non-sewage runoff known as gray water. For a ship carrying 3,600 people, that amounts to about 400 eight-person hot tubs worth of sewage and over 3,000 hot tubs worth of gray water each day…


More on Hydrocarbon, Wastewater + Runoff Pollution . . .

Honolua Bay (by Kirt Edblom CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).

Private yacht runs aground, leaks fuel over Hawaii marine sanctuary –

A 94-foot luxury yacht grounded near a marine sanctuary in Hawaii on Monday, leaking fuel into the ocean, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said…
“I am devastated that it happened,” Maui resident Kaila Tiri told SFGATE. “[Honolua Bay] was a marine sanctuary that was protected for over a decade and a spot on Maui that everyone loved and adored deeply…”

Isreal Defense Force soldiers help clean up the 2021 Israel oil spill, February 2021 (courtesy of IDF Spokesperson's Unit CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Israel).

Seeing Through Turbulence to Track Oil Spills in the Ocean – EOS Magazine

In mid-February 2021, heavy storms brought intense downpours to the eastern Mediterranean coast, keeping residents indoors. After the storms passed, residents returned to local beaches and noticed signs that something amiss had occurred offshore. In Israel, clumps of tarred sand appeared on beaches, along with oil-covered wildlife like turtles and fish. A dead 17-meter-long fin whale also washed ashore—an autopsy revealed oily liquid in its lungs, although the source of the oil was not identified definitively…

Cook Inlet from Homer (by Dave Bezaire CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).

How Long Until Alaska’s Next Oil Disaster? – the Atlantic

More than 30 years after the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, many Alaskans are still haunted by the possibility of another such disaster. Some felt that those fears were about to be realized in 2020, when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) began preparing to auction off development rights to a million acres of Cook Inlet, a proposal known as Lease Sale 258…

10 years after BP spill: Oil drilled deeper; rules relaxed

Industry leaders and government officials say they’re determined to prevent a repeat of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. Yet safety rules adopted in the spill’s aftermath have been eased as part of Trump’s drive to boost U.S. oil production.

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