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Alaska issues 2014 wastewater discharge general permit

Alaska issues 2014 wastewater discharge general permit
Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation issued the 2014 Large Commercial Passenger Vessel Wastewater Discharge General Permit, which satisfies the regulatory provisions of Alaska Statute 46.03.460 through AS 46.03.490 as amended in 2013 by House Bill 80.

The general permit applies to the discharge of wastewater such as treated sewage, treated graywater and other treated wastewater discharges from large commercial passenger vessels operating in the state's marine waters.

A 45-day public comment period on the draft general permit began April 8 and a public workshop/hearing was held April 30 in Juneau. Changes were made to the draft general permit based on comments received.

The 2010 General Permit remains in effect for authorized vessels until an authorization to discharge for the vessel is issued under the 2014 General Permit or when the DEC notifies authorized vessels that the 2010 General Permit will expire. 

HB 80 allowed DEC to extend the 2010 Cruise Ship Wastewater General Permit, which requires ships to meet stringent effluent limits for discharged wastewater. It also authorized cruise ships to apply for mixing zones for upcoming permits, an option other marine dischargers already have.

According to DEC, mixing zones ensure water quality will remain protected at a very high level, while still meeting a protective and achievable standard.

A ballot measure passed in 2006 required that water quality criteria be met at the point of discharge from large cruise ships, which was more stringent than for any other discharger to the marine environment in the state. The quality of the treated effluent had to meet these high standards in the pipe, within the ship, before it is discharged into the ocean—but only for discharges from cruise ships, and not from any other dischargers.

Cruise ships were able to meet this stringent requirement for all but four parameters: ammonia and dissolved copper, nickel and zinc. For all other dischargers in the state, a rigorous permitting process determines what levels must be met at the point of discharge. HB 80 removed the ballot measure requirement that applied to cruise ships and not other marine dischargers.

The 2014 General Permit is here. DEC said a response to comments summary will be posted on the webpage when it is available.