ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A group of several environmental activists submitted around 46,000 signed petitions from across the United States to the National Park Services Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage Monday morning with the hope of holding Carnival Corporation more accountable for pollution in Alaskan waters.
The groups present included Stand.earth, Pacific Environment, and Friends of the Earth. Together, they are a part of the Clean-up Carnival Coalition.
At their rally, several speakers called out Carnival for their role in pollution in Glacier Bay. In particular, they expressed their contempt with the company for dumping gray water and other harmful pollutants directly into the Bay in 2018.
The petitions signed call for the National Park Service to take away operating permits from Carnival ships until they prove they will comply with environmental laws. They also call for a third-party monitoring system to be implemented upon every ship that sails in Alaska.
Kendra Ulrich is a senior campaigner with Stand.earth and among those who spoke.
“Gray water is as bad or can be worse than sewage,” she said in front of the Park Service office, “it is high in chemicals, it is high in oils, it is high in fecal coliforms, and other containments.”
According to Senior Science Advisor with the National Park Service, Scott Gende just over 22,000 gallons was spilled into Glacier Bay by a Holland America cruise ship. Holland America is a subsidiary cruise line within Carnival.
When it happened, Gende said the cruise line reported it to the Park Service, but not to the coast guard. He said it was a misdemeanor offense and Carnival was fined $250. He said there have been other minor infractions the cruise line reported.
“I don’t need to tell you that that is not even a flea bite for a multi-billion dollar entity,” Ulrich said.
Philip Hooge, the Glacier Bay Superintendent said there would have been a more severe consequence if the event wasn’t self-reported.
According to federal court documents, Carnival has made similar violations around the world, many of which they’ve pleaded guilty to. The Associated Press reports that similar violations in 2016 landed them a $40 million fine and five years on probation.
“Dumping that illegal gray water in Glacier Bay happened while they were on probation for felony convictions that they pleaded guilty to in 2016,” Ulrich brought up.
Gende and Hooge said the Glacier Bay incident was caused by ‘equipment issues,’ and ‘human error.’ Gende said the environmental officer responsible was fired by Carnival.
Perhaps the people who take this environmental violation the most personally are people in the Tlingit community. Wanda Culp, or Wanda Kashaduha in Tlingit is from Glacier Bay.
Culp said Glacier Bay is sacred to Tlingit people, who she said occupied the area since history has been recorded.
“Elders will say, ‘that’s the way God wanted it,’” she said, “All our memories, all our actions, all our history is tied to that place. It’s very important to us.”
Culp sees the entire cruise industry as contaminating the water and air in Alaska by burning fossil fuels and dumping pollutants. However, she said she wants to see Carnival make the biggest changes.
“I understand that Carnival Cruise Lines is the biggest of all cruise lines, so this seems to give them special consideration – no doubt all tied in with money,” she said, “so they can go ahead and do it again and again and they’re proving that.”
The Park Service met with the protesters for hours after the short rally. Hooge said they revealed plans to them that there was already work in place to implement a third party monitoring system as there has been in the past. However, there is much more work to be done before it can be enacted once again.
The Park Service said as of now they have no intention of removing Carnival’s permits to operate in Glacier Bay.
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