What Cruise Ships Do with Dirty Water

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  • Cruise ships produce an enormous amount of waste.
  • A ship carrying 5,000 passengers could produce up to 250,000 gallons of waste water per day.
  • This article takes a look at how ships dispose of all that waste.

Cruise ships have come under increasing scrutiny lately for their potentially harmful waste disposal practices, which many believe negatively affect the environment. In an article published days ago, a British newspaper asked what happens with all the sewage produced by massive cruise ships.

The piece starts off by giving some background on how cruise companies have recently gotten a bad rap relating to their stewardship over the environment. It talks about the fine that Princess Cruises paid last year, after admitting to having used a so-called “magic pipe” to bypass its regular sewage control system, and dump the waste directly into the sea. So, how are cruise ships supposed to handle waste?

Their first line of defense is to reduce the amount of water consumed aboard the ships. The piece says that cruise ships average about 40-50 gallons of water used per day for every passenger. But still, that’s a lot of water. When there are up to 5,000 or more passengers aboard a ship, that could come out to over 250,000 gallons of dirty water per day.

The cruise ships mix so-called “grey water”, which is water from laundries and galleys, with “black water”, which is bathroom waste. This mixture is then filtered, and bacteria are introduced to consume the biological particles. The water is then treated with radiation, chlorine, or other chemicals in order to kill any remaining harmful organisms. After the water is inspected for purity, it can be released into the sea.

In addition to the above process, some waste is incinerated or contained to be disposed of after arriving at port.