Advisory: Ecology to host virtual meeting, announce decision on cruise ship discharge agreements

Friday August 20, 2021

Tuesday, August 24, 3pm: Environmental advocacy groups call on state agency to ban scrubber, sewage discharges in Puget Sound

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, August 24, the Washington state Department of Ecology will host a virtual meeting on its voluntary agreement with the cruise industry. The meeting is the next step in a process that began in early 2021, when environmental advocacy groups participated in a public comment period and proposed amendments to the agreement, calling for the state agency to ban cruise ship scrubber and sewage discharges in Puget Sound in order to address ongoing pollution concerns and better protect the endangered Southern Resident orcas. Ecology is expected to announce its decision about the amendments at the meeting.

During the comment period, more than 24,600 people signed a petition in support of the amendments, 230 people submitted individual comments, and 10 environmental groups — Stand.earth, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the San Juans, James Bay Neighbourhood Association, Pacific Environment, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Seattle Cruise Control, Washington Environmental Council, Zero Waste Washington, and 350 Seattle — submitted a technical letter outlining their support for the amendments.

WHAT: 2021 meeting between partners involved in reviewing Washington state’s voluntary agreement with the cruise industry, called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The partners will review amendments to the agreement, which were proposed earlier this year during a public comment period, followed by a question and answer session. The parties are expected to announce their decision about the amendments at the meeting. All three parties must agree in order to amend the MOU. 

Read more about the MOU on Ecology’s website.

WHO: Washington state Department of Ecology, Port of Seattle, and Cruise Lines International Association - Northwest & Canada (CLIA-NWC), the cruise industry’s lobbying group. Representatives from Stand.earth and other environmental advocacy organizations will also attend.

WHEN: Tuesday, August 24, from 3-4 p.m. PT

WHERE: The meeting is open to the public and will be held virtually. Interested participants are encouraged to pre-register online.

WHY: Environmental advocacy groups are particularly concerned about the wastewater discharges from cruise ship scrubber systems, which remove sulfur from the fuel exhaust plume but continuously dump the toxin-laden wastewater into Puget Sound. 

The pollution caused by discharged scrubber wastewater impacts acidity of surrounding waters and is harmful to marine wildlife and ecosystems. Heavy metals and PAHs are of particular concern for marine mammals because they bioaccumulate in the food web and have been linked to negative health effects in marine mammal species, including the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Several states and countries already banned scrubber discharges in port or in inland waters, including California, Hawaii, and Connecticut, as well as Norway, China, Singapore, Belgium, and the United Arab Emirates. 

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager, media@stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902 (Pacific Time)