Air pollution

To the Editor:

Do the voters of Bar Harbor want a cruise ship berthing facility for large cruise ships at the old ferry terminal property adjacent to their downtown?

There are a number of environmental factors that need to be investigated regarding the terminal berthing for cruise ships. One in particular is air pollution. How do sulfur dioxide and other toxic chemicals emitted from burning diesel adversely impact residents of the town of Bar Harbor? How are visiting tourists to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park affected by the noxious fumes? Here are some researched and documented answers.

Eighteen-wheelers, dump trucks and buses—including most school buses—emit 15 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere while idling, whereas cruise ships release 1,000 ppm of sulfur dioxide at idle. That is 66 times more sulfur dioxide than what those diesel vehicles emit.

While idling, 18-wheelers burn one gallon of diesel fuel per hour. One large cruise ship burns 320 gallons of diesel fuel per hour while idling in port to produce electricity.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends laws that restrict the idling of large diesel trucks and buses to no more than five minutes because of the Group 1 carcinogenic rating that diesel has when it is burned. All of California as well as many cities and towns across the United States now have put this law into effect.

A portion of the Bar Harbor municipal code, enacted in 1997, states that no motor vehicle is allowed to idle more than five minutes anywhere downtown. This code not only includes diesel vehicles but also cleaner gasoline-powered vehicles.

The electrical demand of cruise ships is also critical to understanding how they contribute to air pollution. When a large cruise ship is tied up to a dock, or berthed, the ship needs to generate 13 megawatts (MW) of electricity for thousands of people for its 10-hour visit.

Used only seasonally, this tremendous amount of power is too demanding to plug into the town’s electrical grid. It simply is not feasible. It costs $10 million per berth to install the electrical infrastructure required. A ship’s electricity is used for lights, internal power systems and the desalination of ocean water to produce over 150,000 gallons per day of fresh water. For an average ship holding 3,000 people, this figure amounts to over 1 million gallons per week.

For their electrical needs, two large cruise ships berthed at the ferry terminal for their 10-hour visit will use 640 gallons (320 each) per hour and will emit 66 times the sulfur fumes that road vehicles emit per hour. The sulfur dioxide emissions from two ships are the same as the sulfur dioxide emissions from 42,624 large trucks and buses at idle. This violates Bar Harbor’s adopted downtown code by 5,114,880 times.

Exposure to chemicals in diesel exhaust, including nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, aldehydes, primarily formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein is a health concern. Prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust can increase the risk of cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary and respiratory diseases, including lung cancer. In June 2012, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) classified diesel exhaust, including diesel particulate matter, as a known human carcinogen (Group 1).”

When molecules of sulfur dioxide (SO2) are inhaled, they turn into sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which is battery acid. When nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is inhaled, it turns into nitric acid (HNO3), which is the nasty component in acid rain and smog.

If large cruise ships are berthed at the proposed 121 Eden St. terminal site, there will be times when the diesel exhaust from these berthed cruise ships will be blown on a west, northwest wind across the land into downtown Bar Harbor as a fumigating plume. Sometimes the exhaust will travel on an easterly sea breeze right at Paradise Hill, which would be level with the smokestacks a quarter mile away, and continue into Hulls Cove and then into Acadia National Park and beyond. The health effects from the fumes of these cruise ships can be measured 200 miles inland from shipping areas.

Ports around the world show high rates of lung cancer and heart disease. According to one study from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, 60,000 deaths from diesel are attributed to ships burning diesel and 12,000 of them are from sulfur dioxide inhalation.

James O’Connell

Bar Harbor

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