Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Steamship Company Admits Dumping 3.8 Tons Of Coal Ash Daily Into Lake Michigan

You may remember that I have been writing about the coal ash dumping into Lake Michigan by the S.S. Badger, the last-remaining steamer on the Great Lakes, as it runs between Manitowoc, WI and Ludington, MI.

Twenty-one months ago, I posted this item about an EPA order to compel the ship to remove coal as its boiler fuel, and I've put up any number of follow-up posts - - here, or here, or here - - but while the company touts its compliance intentions it also continues a public relations campaign to prettify the situation.

Here's the latest from the company: [I bold-faced the coal dust admission.]

Dear Friends of the S.S. Badger,

Since 2008 there have been media stories about Lake Michigan Carferry Service’s (LMC) efforts to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. As the 2011 season approaches, we would like to provide you with the facts surrounding this ongoing challenge.


In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was ordered to regulate vessel discharges under the Clean Water Act.

Nearly 70,000 vessels were suddenly required to obtain a Vessel General Permit (VGP) for any type of discharge. Rain water runoff and even water from fire hoses required a VGP.

The Badger was included under the VGP to discharge ash from her coal-fired boilers until December 19, 2012.

The permit doesn’t authorize ash discharge after that date, forcing LMC to research, invent, and design new technology to allow the Badger to continue to operate.

To date, LMC has invested over a quarter of a million dollars on this VGP issue. (Click link to see complete VGP)

Coal Ash Classified as Non-Hazardous by EPA

Ash samples taken from the Badger and tested by an EPA-approved, independent environmental engineering laboratory were determined to be non-hazardous.

On average, the S.S. Badger burns 55 tons of coal per day during its five month sailing season and generates an estimated 3.8 tons of non-hazardous ash per day.

This amount is significantly less ash than measured in 2008 and is in compliance with current EPA discharge regulations. This improvement reflects LMC’s substantial investment in boiler upgrades, as well as the use of a high grade coal which exceeds the standards required by the VGP.

At one time, several hundred coal-burning steamships operated on the Great Lakes, and we are not aware of any evidence that coal ash from any of these ships negatively affected the environment.

The Importance of the S.S. Badger

The S.S. Badger is the last operating coal-fired passenger ship in the United States. She is a significant part of Great Lakes maritime history, has earned numerous awards and designations, and is listed on National Register of Historic Places.

(Click link to see all awards and designations)

Each year, the S.S. Badger transports thousands of autos and commercial trucks across Lake Michigan, which saves our passengers over 1 million gallons of fuel. These figures are based on company data applied to EPA mileage data.

Lake Michigan Carferry employs 250 people. Studies have found that an additional 450 indirect jobs are generated by Lake Michigan Carferry Service, and a West Shore Community College study found that the economic impact upon the area surrounding Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin is $35 million dollars annually.

What can you do to help?

The Badger has thousands of supporters throughout the country, many of whom have offered to help in any way they can. Currently there is nothing specific that anyone outside the company can do; however, if you’d like to be included on a database of Badger fans, please click

We may contact you at a later date to seek help writing letters of support.

Thank you!

We intend to meet the requirements of the VGP with the same tenacity that we’ve used in tackling the many other challenges we have faced over the years while preserving hundreds of jobs and the life of this one-of-a-kind historic treasure.


dave said...

Coal dust and ash is hazardous. Persistent and bioaccumulative toxic substances contaminate these materials in varying amounts and they can be released to water.

And as usual, operators of coal-fired boilers are exposed to complex mixtures of pollutants by several pathways.

One would think that serious people could find a solution to this problem that protects jobs while ending this 18th century waste disposal method.

Max B said...

I have first hand experience that the particles are bigger than what you'd think of as dust or ash. I took the Badger once--and never again--not knowing anything about the amount of ash blown into the air, then falling back into the water and onto the Badger. I dozed off thanks to nausea med and woke up covered in the stuff. The Badger staff washes windows midway so that whatever lands on the Badger itself gets into the water eventually. The ash itself and knowledge of the environmental damage occurring spoiled an otherwise enjoyable excursion.