Cruise ships bring dollars and people into Seattle and other West Coast cities. But what is the impact on our oceans and coastal waters? Help InvestigateWest journalists find out by pledging your support to this story. We’ll bring the results back to you.

Cruise season began this month and will bring more than 800,000 visitors to Seattle and nearly 900,000 tourists to Vancouver, B.C.  Those passengers create a floating city that generates not only dollars, but also sewage,  waste water from kitchens and laundries and showers, hazardous wastes, oily bilge water, solid waste and other toxic substances including medical wastes.  Ballast water transports marine life from one place to another in ways that can disrupt the ecosystem. What’s the impact on human health and aquatic life? Are adequate precautions taken aboard ship to protect our waters and health? Help InvestigateWest journalists find out by pledging to support this story.

The cruise ship industry is one of the fastest-growing segment of the vacation industry. Ship capacity has doubled in recent years, with some of the largest ships docking in Seattle carrying nearly 3,000 passengers.  More than 230 cruise ships operate around the world, generating millions of gallons of waste water every day.  A typical cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew members generates more than 200,000 gallons of human sewage, one million gallons of waste water, eight tons of garbage and more than 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water each week.

Where do all those wastes go?  Some cruise ship companies are voluntarily trying to clean up their acts, but it’s not uniform. State and federal laws vary as to where and when dumping is allowed, and how well the wastes must be treated.  It’s time to take a hard look at the facts and find out how green the cruise ships really are, and how blue are the waters beneath them.

The first of 211 sailings departed Seattle this month, and cruise season winds up in October. It’s expected to bring in $312 million in revenue. Help InvestigateWest journalists discover how green those tourism dollars really are.

How will it help?


Now is a great time for citizens to let public officials know they're paying attention.


In Washington state, a move to put the entire Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off limits to cruise ship dumping has been proposed. In Congress, legislation limiting discharge in U.S. waters has been introduced.


Yet even with the existing and proposed protections, the oceans and the life they sustain don't maintain marine sanctuary, state or even national lines. And it's well established that violations occur in this state's waters, as well as in U.S. and international waters.


In 2006, the state of Washington fined Celebrity Cruise lines $100,000 for discharging untreated wastewater nine times over 10 days into the waters of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One major cruise lines, Royal Caribbean, pleaded guilty in federal court last year to 21 felony charges and paid $18 million in fines for dumping bilge water in various U.S. coastal areas and falsifying records.


At the same time, several of the major cruise lines are "greening up" their images and championing new ways to reduce waste onboard ship.


Now is the time to examine the amount of waste produced, ask the cruise lines to demonstrate how they responsibly handle these wastes and produce a clear, analytical look at the results.

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