Wednesday, June 10, 2009

City of Manitowoc, Media Bear Some Blame For the SS Badger's Pollution

There was a spate of publicity a week ago - - mostly in the Michigan media (see this page 1 story, for example) - - about a ruling by the US Environmental Protection Agency ordering the coal-fired steamship SS Badger to stop by 2012 polluting Lake Michigan with coal-ash slurry washed overboard from its engine.

The Badger is the last remaining such ferry in the US - - and as a result of federal hearings and actions on preventing invasive mussels and other species from entering the Great Lakes through ocean-going vessels' ballast water (not an issue for the Badger), the EPA finally got around to telling the Badger's owners that coal-slurry dumping was unacceptable for Lake Michigan, too.

There are a few odd things about this unfolding story:

Though the ship docks in Michigan and also in Manitowoc, the Milwaukee media has had little say about the issue - - even though there has been national publicity, including this MSNBC report.

Secondly, the pollution has been tolerated even though its reality has been known for years. I began checking into this a few years ago, and learned that the Wisconsin legislature gave the Badger a permanent exemption from the Clean Air Act - - but not the Clean Water Act.

See applicable state statute section 285.27 (3) here.

Why the exemption, and the long delay in any regulatory action to hold the ship to the same standards that one would apply to a coal-fired boiler on land forbidden from dumping its ash into the lake everyday - - for years, no doubt measured in tons.

Third: Manitowoc has a municipally-owned shipping dock and coal-burning utility that provides the ship its fuel. The Badger's known pollution is certainly at odds with the city's green intentions, spelled out here in a policy resolution about sustainability.

Fourth: Milwaukee media covered the ballast issue in depth. But the Badger enforcement issue, with its 2012 deadline coming directly out of the ballast fight, hasn't had the same level of publicity.

Granted the ship contributes to the Manitowoc economy, is intertwined there with the public sector, and is a nostalgic link to an earlier era, but where is the city's willingness to help ensure a cleaner lake?

With all the efforts underway to guarantee that the Great Lakes are preserved and cleaned up, Manitowoc and the media in Wisconsin should more aggressively have pressured the ship's operators to take better care of Lake Michigan.


Anonymous said...

Who cares about Manitowoc right?

Just another dirty suburb.. oh wait! The ferry supports thousands of jobs in a city of only 40,000.

Get off your horse Jim.

James Rowen said...

To Anon: Your name-calling adds nothing here. I don't think you read this post seriously and just wanted to ventilate.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think a state had the power to exempt something from a federal law. Can you clarify how the WI legislature was able to exempt the ferry from the federal Clean Air Act? Thank you.

James Rowen said...

To lastest Anon: I posted the citation:

Here it is again in a link:$fn=document-frameset.htm$q=%5band%3Acar%20ferry%5d%20$x=server$3.0#LPHit1

Anonymous said...

"The ferry supports thousands of jobs in a city of only 40,000."

Check your facts - I doubt that's true.

Anonymous said...

maybe the ash issue hasn't been covered because Milwaukee's discharge of millions of gallons of raw sewage would get more attention.

Anonymous said...

The Milwaukee "millions of gallons of raw sewage" argument is a classic off the SS Badger damage control script - they're spamming wherever they can with with this junk.

Right along with "the other guy gets free money" (untrue) and "this stuff is sand" (pure fantasy), and Manitowoc gets millions and millions in impact, and thousands of jobs from the old ferry (again, dubious), these guys are classic comment trolls.

Get with the program guys - bad actions are bad actions regardless of the misdirection you spew.

Anonymous said...

Historically, the SS Badger has created no more than 15 part time jobs for Wisconsin residents.