Cruise Ships and Excessive Water Pollution

If you thought peeing in the ocean was kind of of gross, imagine the cruise ship industry dumping about 3.8 BILLION tons of raw bodily fluids into the ocean every year, the majority of it untreated. Poop, pee, vomit, feminine hygiene stuff. I'm talking the whole lot here, my friends. The whole nasty lot.

The idea that billions of tons of crap is floating around in the ocean doesn't exactly make me want to take a trip to the beach, or enjoy some wild caught fish that could be sick or contaminated any time soon. Gross factor is not the biggest issue here though. The vacationers waste that is flushed into the ocean by these "luxury floating toilets" directly harm whales, dolphins, other marine life, while destroying the fragile ecosystems within the waters.

But it's water, and the crap gets, you know, watered down right? Ehhhh, not really. Our oceans are wonderful filters in theory. Not only do they have the capability to filter themselves, but they also filter the air. Considering our air pollution, and the fact that we are deforesting the land (trees are another great air filter) it's a good thing we have the oceans to back us up. Different fish, crustaceans, algae, plankton and the salt all work together with other factors to keep everything in tip-top shape. The only problem is all of these human introduced pollutants such as sewage, oil spills (60 million gallons a year), and all of our plastic trash (90% of ocean pollution is plastic) breaking down in the water prohibits the ocean from doing it's job.

We call out of work, school or events when we are sick because we know we won't be the best we can be production-wise, and need to get better. Unfortunately for the oceans, as long as we keep bombarding them with junk, they are denied this important healing time.

EpSos.de / CC BY 2.0
As far as the cruise ship problem, it isn't only sewage. Cruise ship waste includes waste water from showers, sinks, laundries, gray water, gallons of chemicals from photo processing, paint, dry cleaning, ballast water bearing pathogens and invasive species from foreign ports, garbage, solid waste, and of course, air pollution from the ships diesel engine at a level equivalent to thousands of automobiles on the road. One ship dumps this into the ocean every day.

Instead of cleaning up their act, and finding other ways to dispose of waste (or innovating a greener way to make less waste), cruise ship companies are more interested in profits. Being lax with environmental concerns and shrugging off sustainability helps maximize those profits.

Why are ships allowed to do this? If it is such a pollutant, and pretty gross, shouldn't something like this be illegal? Cruise lines aren't subject to the same waste water regulations that govern municipalities of similar size. Under the Clean Water Act, cities must treat their waste, and limit the pollution they discharge. The discharge is also monitored from sewage treatment facilities. Do cruise ships have to obtain the Clean Water Act discharge permits? Nope. The bit of regulations that are in place are not completely enforced. Pretty much like the "no smoking in public parks" implemented in NYC recently. It is the Parks Department's job to enforce it, NOT the NYPD, and I haven't seen the Parks Department around to give out any tickets.

http://action.foe.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16824So with vacation season coming up, what can us mere mortals do to make a difference? As consumers, we vote with our dollars. Naturally, not booking your vacation with a wasteful cruise ship company is one way to go. Check out this Cruise Line Report Card to see which cruise lines are the lousy or the most conscious.

While many readers of this page are green savvy consumers, the average folk looking to take a vacation may not be aware. The SumOfUs Organization has started a fundraiser to bring awareness to the cruise ship pollutant issue to the average vacationer by launching a major ad campaign on travel planning websites. Ad space is surprisingly cost efficient, and even a donation of one dollar will help SumOfUs reach the goal. With advertisements calling out certain companies on their corporate irresponsibility, the goal is that vacationers will turn to more sustainable, and less reckless cruise lines.

In addition to supporting more efficient cruise lines, the advertisements will place enormous pressure on the major polluters to clean up their act, and that is desperately what the oceans (and we!) need. In the bigger picture, this campaign may lead to the strengthening of monitoring, inspection, and improve waste management enforcement and air quality control. Even further still, it could lead to research and development of more sustainable cruise ship designs which aren't invasive to the oceans ecosystems

SumOfUs' goal is to raise 50,000 to launch the major ad campaign. If 50,000 people donated a dollar, they're done! 25,000 donating 2 bucks it not a lot of people, nor a lot of money. Let's make this happen! 

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