[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 3 (Tuesday, January 6, 2009)]
[Pages 442-445]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-31453]



[EPA-HQ-OW-2007-1156; FRL-8760-3]
RIN 2040-2A03

Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of availability.


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SUMMARY: EPA announces the availability of the completed Cruise Ship 
Discharge Assessment Report, which assesses five cruise ship waste 
streams (i.e., sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid waste, and 
hazardous waste). EPA prepared and invited public comment on the draft 
Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report as part of its response to a 
petition submitted by the Bluewater Network on behalf of a number of 
environmental advocacy organizations. Today's action is intended to 
complete this portion of EPA's response to the petition.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura S. Johnson, Oceans and Coastal 
Protection Division, Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds 
(4504T), U.S. EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460; 
telephone number: (202) 566-1273; fax number: (202) 566-1546; e-mail 
address: [email protected].


I. General Information

A. Interested Entities

    Entities potentially interested in today's notice are those who are 
interested in or addressing cruise ship waste streams. Categories and 
entities interested in today's notice include:

               Category                                      Examples of interested entities
Federal Government....................  U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S.
                                         Department of Justice.
State/Local/Tribal Government.........  Governments interested in or addressing cruise ship waste streams.
Industry and General Public...........  Cruise industry, environmental interest groups.

    This table is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather provides a 
guide for readers regarding entities likely to be interested in this 
notice. This table lists the types of entities that EPA is now aware 
could potentially be interested in this notice. Other types of entities 
not listed in the table could also be interested.

B. How Can I Get Copies of This Document and Other Related Information?

    1. Document Electronic Access. To obtain a copy of the report 
entitled Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report, please access our Web 
site at: http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/cruise_ships/disch_assess.html.
    2. Federal Register Docket. EPA has established a public docket for 
this notice under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2007-1156. The public docket 
consists of the documents specifically referenced in this notice and 
other information related to this notice. The public docket does not 
include information claimed as Confidential Business Information (CBI) 
or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. 
Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically 
through www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the Water Docket in the 
EPA Docket Center.
    3. Federal Register Electronic Access. You may access this Federal 
Register document electronically through the EPA Internet under the 
``Federal Register '' listings at: http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/.

II. Background

    Cruise ships operate in every ocean worldwide, often in pristine 
coastal waters and sensitive marine ecosystems. Cruise ship operators 
provide amenities to their passengers that are similar to those of 
luxury resort hotels, including pools, hair salons, restaurants, and 
dry cleaners. As a result, cruise ships have the potential to generate 
wastes similar in volume and character to those generated by hotels.
    In March 2000, an environmental advocacy group called the Bluewater 
Network, representing 53 environmental organizations, submitted a 
petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting 
that EPA identify and take regulatory action on measures to address 
pollution by cruise ships. Specifically, the petition requested an in-
depth assessment of the volumes and characteristics of cruise ship 
waste streams; analysis of their potential impact on water quality, the 
marine environment, and human health; examination of existing federal 
regulations governing cruise ship waste streams; and formulation of 
recommendations on how to better control and regulate these waste 
streams. The petition included specific requests related to sewage, 
graywater, oily bilge water, solid wastes, and hazardous wastes, as 
well as monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting. In addition, the 
petition requested that EPA prepare a report of its investigations and 
findings. An August 2000 addendum to the petition requested that EPA 
examine and develop recommendations on how to address air pollution 
from cruise ships.
    EPA's full response to the petition and the addendum from Bluewater 
Network was signed by EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water on 
January 31, 2008, and can be accessed at the public docket established 
for the Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report. (See Unit I.B.) As 
part of this response, EPA prepared a draft Cruise Ship Discharge 
Assessment Report (draft Assessment Report) assessing five primary 
cruise ship waste streams, specifically, sewage, graywater, oily bilge 
water, solid waste, and hazardous waste. For each waste stream, the 
draft Assessment Report discusses (1) The nature and volume of the 
waste stream generated; (2) existing federal regulations applicable to 
the waste stream; (3) environmental management, including treatment, of 
the waste stream; (4) potential adverse environmental impacts of the 
waste stream; and (5) actions by the Federal Government to address the 
waste stream.
    On December 20, 2007, EPA published in the Federal Register a 
notice of availability and request for public comment on this draft 
Assessment Report (72 FR 72353). In addition to requesting comments on 
the draft Assessment Report, EPA solicited input on options, 
alternatives, and recommendations on how to address the waste streams 
assessed in the draft Assessment Report. EPA extended the initial 45-
day comment period on the draft Assessment Report by 15 days in 
response to public requests; the comment period ended on February 19, 
2008. EPA received 26 comment letters during the comment period and 
those letters can be accessed at the docket. (See Unit I.B. for 

III. This Action

    EPA announces the availability of the completed Cruise Ship 
Discharge Assessment Report (Assessment Report). Today's action is 
intended to complete this portion of EPA's response to the petition on 
cruise ship pollution submitted by the Bluewater Network on behalf of a 
number of environmental advocacy organizations.

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IV. Summary of Comments on the Draft Assessment Report

    EPA received 26 comment letters on the draft Assessment Report. 
Some comments related to information in the draft Assessment Report; 
some comments provided options, alternatives, and recommendations on 
how to address the waste streams discussed in the draft Assessment 
Report. Many of the commenters expressed concern over the potential 
environmental impacts of cruise ship waste streams. EPA carefully 
considered all comments when completing the Assessment Report. Based on 
these comments, EPA made changes to the draft Assessment Report to 
clarify information and in some cases, added new information.
    In particular, some commenters requested a fuller discussion of 
efforts by state governments to regulate and manage cruise ship waste 
streams. The completed Assessment Report includes an appendix with 
relevant information regarding such efforts by state governments to 
date. Other new information includes an additional section in each 
chapter identifying a range of options and alternatives (regulatory or 
non-regulatory) that address the five specified waste streams from 
cruise ships. Inclusion of any particular option does not imply any EPA 
recommendation or preference for future action, or that EPA has 
determined that any of these options are necessary or feasible, or that 
EPA believes a change to the status quo is warranted, or that EPA or 
any other entity has the legal authority to implement that option.
    In the completed Assessment Report, the options and alternatives 
listed to address the specified cruise ship waste streams are based on 
the public comments received, as well as other information gathered. A 
number of commenters recommended changes to discharge standards and/or 
geographic restrictions on discharges. Commenters also recommended 
increased monitoring, reporting, inspections, and enforcement of cruise 
ship waste stream discharges and management. Some commenters 
recommended a careful evaluation of cumulative impacts of multiple 
vessels discharging in one location. Other commenters recommended 
careful consideration and/or identification of sensitive or at-risk 
habitats when evaluating the potential impacts of discharges. These 
recommendations have been incorporated into the options and 
alternatives sections found at the end of each waste stream chapter of 
the completed Assessment Report.
    While some commenters requested regulatory action to implement 
their recommendations for addressing cruise ship waste streams, EPA 
does not commit, through the completed Assessment Report, to the 
formulation of any Agency recommendations on whether, and if so how, 
any existing regulations should be revised. Though the completed 
Assessment Report identifies possible options and alternatives 
representing a wide range of actions that could be taken to address the 
five specific waste streams from cruise ships, EPA did not conduct an 
analysis for each such discharge to determine if changes to the current 
regulatory scheme are warranted. However, EPA is completing its 
analysis of Alaska cruise ship sewage and graywater standards in a 
separate assessment of the adequacy of those legislative standards 
(which apply under special legislation only to those ships and to those 
    As a part of a separate effort, recent legislation (Pub. L. 110-
299) directs EPA to conduct a study to evaluate the impacts of 
discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial fishing 
vessels (regardless of size) and other non-recreational vessels less 
than 79 feet in length. Except for ballast water, the incidental 
discharges from those vessels are subject to a moratorium on National 
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting that expires 
July 31, 2010.
    Some commenters questioned the draft Assessment Report's focus on 
Alaska and requested that similar assessments be conducted in other 
geographic regions. While much of the information about the treatment 
and discharge of sewage and graywater presented in the draft and 
completed Assessment Reports was collected in Alaska, the Assessment 
Report is not solely focused on conditions or impacts in Alaska. For 
example, the sections on potential environmental impacts in the sewage 
and graywater chapters compare these waste streams to national 
standards and criteria. The information provided in the completed 
Assessment Report should be helpful to stakeholders interested in 
evaluating potential impacts on a regional or waterbody basis.
    A number of commenters suggested that dilution should not be 
considered in evaluating potential impacts of sewage and graywater 
discharges from cruise ships. Other commenters suggested that dilution 
is a very important part of such assessments, particularly when 
discharges are from ships underway, and therefore should be discussed 
earlier and more frequently in the sewage and graywater chapters. The 
Assessment Report discussed dilution because it is relevant to 
assessments of potential toxicity, and in some locations dilution is 
relevant to a determination of whether receiving waters are attaining 
concentration-based water quality standards. The Assessment Report's 
discussion of dilution does not express any conclusion and should not 
be read to imply that dilution addresses all potential environmental 
impacts from these discharges.
    Related to this, one commenter suggested that the evaluation of 
Type II Marine Sanitation Devices for vessel sewage should always 
include a discussion of dilution while ships are underway. While a 
number of cruise lines have voluntarily agreed to discharge from a Type 
II Marine Sanitation Device only when the vessel is underway and 
offshore, as a practical matter, such restrictions are not required, 
either as a matter of circumstance or by law.
    Some commenters requested more information on potential treatment 
technologies for sewage and graywater treatment, such as cost, space, 
and safety information. More information on these technology options 
will be made available at EPA's Web site (http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/cruise_ships/) upon completion of EPA's analysis of cruise ship 
sewage and graywater discharges in Alaska waters.
    One commenter noted that other waste streams and contaminants, such 
as hull coating leachate, deck runoff, ballast water, viruses, and 
pharmaceuticals, were not addressed in the draft Assessment Report. The 
Bluewater Network petition made specific requests related to certain 
identified cruise ship waste streams for which EPA was to conduct an 
assessment and produce a report of the investigations and findings. 
Those same five specified cruise ship waste streams from the petition 
(sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid waste, and hazardous waste) 
are assessed in the completed Assessment Report. There are a number of 
other waste streams that may be generated onboard cruise ships, some of 
which may be considered incidental to the normal operation of a vessel 
(e.g., ballast water, deck runoff, hull coat leachate). In responding 
to the petition, EPA did not attempt to assess such other waste 
streams, and therefore, the completed Assessment Report does not 
present an assessment of these other waste streams. There are EPA 

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underway, however, that reach beyond the scope of this Assessment 
Report. For information regarding EPA efforts relating to the 
occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, visit EPA's 
Web site at http://www.epa.gov.ppcp.
    In a separate effort, EPA developed a Clean Water Act (CWA) general 
permit that addresses a range of discharges incidental to the normal 
operation of commercial vessels, including some of the additional 
wastes identified by the preceding comment. By virtue of a court 
decision, which vacated the EPA regulation that had excluded these 
discharges from NPDES permitting, these discharges will become subject 
to CWA permitting requirements as of February 6, 2009. Except for 
ballast water, subsequent legislation (Pub. L. 110-299) exempts 
commercial vessels shorter than 79 feet and commercial fishing vessels 
(regardless of their size) from NPDES permitting requirements for these 
discharges for a period of two years (during which time EPA has been 
directed to conduct further study and analysis).
    One commenter urged EPA and other federal agencies to work at the 
international level on issues directly associated with discharges from 
cruise ships and other ocean-going vessels. Numerous federal agencies 
are presently working cooperatively through forums, such as the 
International Maritime Organization, to enhance international 
environmental protection standards. At present, the U.S. government is 
simultaneously supporting efforts to enhance international standards 
related to discharges of machinery space wastes, sewage, and garbage. 
In addition, among other efforts, the U.S. government is also working 
diligently to enhance and implement international standards relating to 
air emissions from ships, including measures to reduce greenhouse gas 
emissions. This work is ongoing and extensive.

    Dated: December 30, 2008.
Benjamin H. Grumbles,
Assistant Administrator for Water.
 [FR Doc. E8-31453 Filed 1-5-09; 8:45 am]