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Water Today Title October 30, 2020

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Updated 2018/8/29


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By Michelle Moore

A new report by World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada) reveals that the amount of grey water being dumped into Canada's Arctic waters will double by 2035.

As warmer temperatures open up new passages in the north, the number of ships is increasing and so is the quantity of grey water from showers, baths, and dishwashing.

The Canadian Arctic Grey Water Report: Estimates, Forecasts and Treatment Technologies found that even a small increase in the number of ships could dramatically increase the amount of grey water being dumped.

Cruise ships produce about 250 litres of grey water per day per person. Cargo vessels like ships used for fishing and mining use about half as much and have far fewer passengers, but remain in the area longer which means the affect could be as significant.

  • WWF-Canada is calling for stricter rules for waters above the 60th parallel, saying that areas that are often used for grey water dumping are also important whale habitats and sensitive benthic habitats.

    Melissa Nacke, specialist for arctic shipping and marine conservation at WWF-Canada, said "regulations governing grey water disposal in the Arctic are overdue for an overhaul."

    Grey water may contain detergent and soap residue, oil and grease, metals, hair and food particles. It can also contain nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus which can contribute to shellfish contamination, algal blooms and depleted oxygen levels.

    Nacke said "it doesn't make any sense that the fragile Canadian Arctic environment receives less regulation and protection than southern waters and neighbouring Alaska, and we want that to change."

    In 2016 the Crystal Serenity cruise ship completed a full transit of the Northwest Passage with 1000 passengers aboard. More and more cruise ships big and small will make the voyage through coastal inlets and communities.

    Secretary-treasurer of the Inuvialuit Game Council Hans Lennie, said "northern communities rely on resupply ships and many communities are happy to see tourism growing responsibly in the Arctic."

    He added "however, communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region rely on the ocean for food. As shipping grows in the Arctic, it's important that regulations are changed to stop the dumping of grey water into the ocean."

    The report recommends developing onboard treatment options for cruise and cargo ships. For the moment however, most of the options for large vessels are combined systems.

  • The Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations state that grey water discharge is not allowed, but it continues nonetheless due to a lack of monitoring and feasible alternatives.

  • In the hopes that ships convert to have onboard biological treatment plants, WWF-Canada also recommends that research be conducted to find alternatives to chemical cleaning which would hinder biological treatment processes.


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