Letter to Editor: Cruise ship costs weighed

I urge the town of Bar Harbor to please reconsider its commitment to cruise ships.

During my recent visit to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, I was astonished to discover that cruise ships regularly visit the area — the same uniquely beautiful area that early residents of Mount Desert Island recognized and sought to protect.

In the words of George B. Dorr, “Saved to future generations as it has been to us, in the wild primeval beauty of the nature it exhibits, of ancient rocks and still more ancient sea, with infinite detail of life and landscape interest between, the spirit and mind of man will surely find in it in the years and centuries to come an inspiration and a means of growth as essential to them ever and anon as are fresh air and sunshine to the body.”

The cruise ships now anchoring near Bar Harbor and delivering an almost daily onslaught of passengers to the area threaten the very landscape and seascape Dorr and others worked so hard to preserve.

Numerous studies of cruise ships worldwide indicate that cruise ships increase concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain (harmful to plants and aquatic animals), and the greenhouse gas effect now implicated in causing climate change (Dragovic´ et al., 2018; Murena, Prati, and Quaranta, 2018; Tichavska et al., 2019).

The use of heavy fuel oil by cruise ships also results in emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) (another contributor to acid rain), carbon monoxide, and very small particulate matter (PM), all of which can lead to respiratory ailments, asthma, heart disease and cancer.

Many cruise ships incinerate the passenger garbage, adding to the air pollution burden. In fact, “cruise ships can emit as much particulate matter as a million cars every day” (Morgan, 2017). Because ships like those visiting Bar Harbor spend the majority of their time along the coast or at anchor, those areas suffer most from ship emissions (Hall, Wood, and Wilson, 2017).

While Bar Harbor does actively monitor the nearshore water conditions (turbidity, transparency, dissolved oxygen, levels of phytoplankton, etc.), more attention needs to be paid to other potential sources of water pollution from cruise ships.

Oil, lubricants, and cleaning chemicals can be washed overboard during the course of normal ship operations (Hall, Wood, and Wilson, 2017). Grey water (from showers and sinks) and black water (sewage) may be treated with an unknown mixture of chemicals and then discharged into the sea anywhere from four to 12 miles offshore, depending on the cruise line (Hall, 2015). Some cruise lines dump wastewater with no pre-treatment at all (Resneck, 2019).

Those discharges foul fisheries and negatively impact other marine life.  Additionally, cruise lines report either incinerating food wastes on board or discharging them directly into the sea. Both sewage and food wastes contribute to increased nitrogen and phosphorous in the marine environment and thus to algae blooms and bacterial growth (Wilewska-Bien, Granhag, and Andersson, 2016). Fish can die and people can get sick (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

Are the sales to cruise passengers of Asian-made T-shirts, googly-eyed lobster magnets, and mermaid bottle openers really worth more than health of the air, water, trees, human and wild life of Mount Desert Island? I think not.

Please take action to ensure that the natural beauty of which George Dorr wrote is indeed saved for current and future generations.

Kathleen M. Saul

Olympia, Wa.

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