OUR VIEWS: Coal ash dumping must stop

Oct 11, 2012

The Badger makes trips from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wis., during the warmer months. It dumps 3.8 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan every time it makes that trip.

Four years ago, Lake Michigan Carferry — which operates the Badger — obtained a permit that allowed the company four years of continued coal ash dumping. The permit was issued with the understanding that, during that time, the ferry company was to find another fuel source that was not as harmful to the environment.

That permit will soon expire, and the company has still not found a solution.

Lake Michigan Carferry claims it does not have the funding and resources to make the necessary conversion in time for the Dec. 19 deadline, so they are asking for an extension on the permit that will allow them to conduct business (and continue to pollute) as usual.

Make no mistake, the Badger has significant historical value, but the idea of allowing its coal ash dumping to continue at the expense of our environment is not tolerable.

It’s also not fair to the Badger’s competitor to the south, the Lake Express, which travels from Muskegon to Milwaukee. The Lake Express car ferry has received numerous "green" awards, while investing money to adhere to current emissions guidelines.

Hopefully, the strides Lake Michigan Carferry has made to obtain funding for the conversion from coal to a more environmentally friendly power source will come together in time — but it's not looking promising.

To its credit, the company claims it has curbed coal use by 20 percent during the past several years. It has also found ways to reduce discharge, including using a more efficient but much more expensive type of coal.

Those are tremendous steps in the right direction, but they’re not enough. Lake Michigan Carferry officials should be held to the timeline passed along by the EPA four years ago.

What a shame it would be if the Badger were unable to continue operating with a lesser footprint on the environment due to a lack of preparation. The company's actions — or apparent lack thereof — affect their employees, tourism and a mode of travel counted on in our nearby communities.

But when’s enough enough?

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Liz Stuck and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

moey

Some things need to die regardless of historical value, if they are a toxic mess. They were given four years!!

Tri-cities realist

The same could be said for Obama. 4 years of a historical toxic mess.

snlfan

I thought there was a plan to convert to CNG (compressed natural gas) as a fuel source. Also no mention of the extension of service they recieved to bring wind turbine parts across the lake... homework time Tribune...

100pctHuman

Natural gas is misdirection and red herring. It's not a serious effort.

The USCG won't allow natural gas below passenger spaces on a ship. See the middle of page 2:
http://www.ebdg.com/wp-content/u...

The SS Badger owners themselves admit that natural gas infrastructure needs would push total conversion costs into the $50-100 million range.
http://www.htrnews.com/article/2...

Talk of natural gas is just a way of ignoring simple ways of solving the problem while trying to sell the notion that the fix is very very difficult and will require years more in extensions.

Tri-cities realist

Please tell us these "simple ways" of solving the problem. Hopefully "dry docking" the Badger is not your simple solution.

100pctHuman

Vacuum out the ash and dispose of it on land. They do it in New Zealand with a 100 year old ship and the last 7 coal burning vessels operating in world trade have done it. It's not rocket science - thankfully, because the SS Badger is 19th century technology.

Landsold

There is a difference between a bulk cargo ship and a passenger ferry even if what you are saying is true.

100pctHuman

The New Zealand example is a passenger ferry.

Landsold

Lets see its ash unloading system. Or is it mothballed.

truthhurts

its either coal or fossil fuels? which do you want? the ferry will go out of business if they must use fossil fuel due to costs (it will no longer be a savings to use the ferry). Also, as far as I am concerned, until our slackin' government does something to stop asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, why should I care? Dumping a little coal tailings vs asian carp....the carp will destroy the great lakes eco system....coal will not.

GH55

Except for the fact that we drink the lake water! There are many things going on to keep the Aisian Carp out of the lakes. Its just an oportunity for you to say "slackin' government"!
the carp would not "destroy" the eco system, they would definately change it, but not "destroy it"!
Oh, yeah, coal is a fossil fuel by the way!

SEACRUISER

That coal ash doesn't hurt anything. There were hundreds of steamers on the Great Lakes years ago. They all dumped their ash and their sewage in the lakes. Commercial fishing was in it's prime at that time. Sewage dumping was outlawed forty years ago. One steamer running half the year is no threat to the environment. Maybe the EPA should ban dumping human ashes in the lakes. That would be the GREEN way of thinking.

100pctHuman

Google Methylmercury. The SS Badger is poisoning the food chain. Not just through the ash it dumps but also through the smokestack.

The spin that "SS Badger ash has been tested and is harmless and inert?" Seems as though the SS Badger PR team isn't reading their own tests (or is intentionally misleading the public). The owners admit that the they don't know what's in the ash because they haven't done any of the testing correctly.

See pages 117 and 120 of this LMC filing from May of this year - buried in the "17 pound 1,000 + page application" is a sliver of truth. The tests are no good:
http://www.epa.gov/r5water/npdes...

The sad part is that Congressman Huizenga is participating in this scam, standing up with these same results and boasting that "science is on our side" as he and LMC push for permanent coal ash dumping exemptions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...

Landsold

So where are your test results saying how toxic it is? I see the accusation made by these seminar activists but no proof. This looks like a smear campaign on Huizenga and LMC by the competitor.

GH55

Let's go back a hundred years! Everything was great back then, smog, polluted water, tannery dumpings, Lake Erie dead. When was it in Cleveland that the river started on fire?
Burning coal is a huge polluter of the great lakes. Read the fish advisories put out by all of the DNR's of every state that borders the lakes. The mercury comes from burning coal.

Wingmaster

Has anybody even done a study of the bottom to see any effects? Does it have a negative effect on fish. It seems like it would not be good, but like seacruiser said we had hundreds dumping their tailings in the lake years ago. Didn't seem to effect the fisheries then. All that said, its not like they didn't know this deadline was coming. To play the victim card now seems lame.

migpilot

Since when was coal not considered a fossil fuel. I think you meant coal versus crude derivatives.

Landsold

Unfair to Lake Express? I would not call them "Green" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T...
Here is another view. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q...
Creating oil slicks across the lake is not very green to me.

100pctHuman

This is about the 100th time I've seen someone from the SS Badger post some youtube video that they claim shows oil dumping by the competing Lake Express. If these guys spent half the energy they expend trying to smear the Lake Express on actually ending coal ash dumping, they'd have fixed their problem years ago. On the bright side, with their twisted take on facts and reality, constant bickering and general inability to get anything done, if this coal burning ferry business doesn't work out these guys have a bright future in national politics.

Landsold

Maybe if the Lake Express would stop spending lobbying money trying to smear the Badger and lowered there price, maybe they would have nothing to worry about.

Tri-cities realist

What would it cost them to store it on board and dispose of it once they reached land? Seems they could contract one of the coal burning power plants to dispose of it, or am I missing something? I would like to see this working piece of history continue to operate, but if the ash is in fact THAT hazardous, why would EPA have granted the 4 year extension in the first place? Or maybe it's not so hazardous? I really don't know, just posing some food for thought.

100pctHuman

SS Badger filings to EPA state that it would cost $700,000 a year for 5 years to add the land-side disposal option. About $4 more a ticket. http://www.epa.gov/r5water/npdes...

It's really not that hard. In fact, the SS Badger parent company owns a second company, Pere Marquette shipping, that specializes in loading coal ash on a barge, moving it by water and then discharging it safely and responsibly to shore. They know how to handle coal ash.

Landsold

Nice try. Apparently you have never seen it in port here. The Pere Marquette 41 is a barge not a ferry like the Badger.

Tri-cities realist

Ok mr100%human, or should I say half-truth, or just Badger hater, if you would actually read the report, you would understand that the data shown on pages 117-120, were included because the EPA requested them. And it seems the operators of the Badger conducted their analysis on the combined ash. THEN the EPA decided that they should have conducted the testing on each of the 3 types of ash separately. Hmm, would have been nice of the EPA to inform them of this PRIOR to the testing. And I haven't done the math on the data yet, but a cursory review shows that only the "collector" ash, which represents only 14% of the total ash, contains levels of mercury greater than the allowable limit for "wildlife protection". Perhaps you could do me a favor and determine the mercury content of the combined ash.

Tri-cities realist

So I went back and did the math. The Badger's combined mercury level is 3.4726 ng/L which puts it slightly higher than the average for waste water treatment plants (3.05), less than industrial (4.14), and significantly lower than Electric power plants (8.51). So should we also shut down our waste water treatment plants and electric power plants? The 1.3 ng/L threshold established by EPA is so stringent that MDEQ had this to say about it: "The need for a mercury variance became apparent when it was determined, through the implementation of a lower quantification level in 1999, that the majority of ambient waters sampled for mercury, as well as most NPDES permitted discharges, exceed the mercury WQS of 1.3 nanograms per liter (ng/L)." Notice the 2 words MAJORITY and AMBIENT. That means water in our lakes and rivers. So while the goal as established by EPA is 1.3 ng/L, the level currently achievable is about 10 ng/L. So now we can all decide how "bad" the Badger really is. And one more thing mr100%human, the data on the first few pages of the report was conducted according to EPA's instruction, and provides very conservative numbers based upon independent, accredited laboratories. Your insinuation that the Badger's owner / operator did the testing wrong is rediculous.

Vladtheimp

Afraid you're fighting a losing battle, Realist. Simply mention the words coal or ash and, like a different part of Pavlov's dog, the enviro's rear leg starts flailing and all reason is abandoned. The EPA is full of these zealots (believe me, I've tangled with them when working for another federal agency) - they are never satisfied and keep blinders firmly in place. I'm no scientist, and not real good in math, but by my back of the envelope calculations, the Badger emits roughly .6 milliliters of mercury per operational year - while the each new, EPA approved/mandated CFL light bulb contains about 4 milliliters of mercury. How many years of Badger operations would be as dangerous to the Lake and persons exposed to the lake as one CFL light bulb being broken in the Lake? Almost 8? Examples of dim bulbs abound. Cite the fact that there has been no global warming in 16 years, which makes all this silliness moot, and watch their heads explode.

Wingmaster

Look, you can't argue with the left or environmental wackos using facts. They only deal in emotion. It's the same no matter what the topic. If you're sensitive about a topic that's good enough for them. Use facts, and you are labeled an environmental Nazi, a liar, a racist or any other derogatory term to take you off topic and respond to the charge.

100pctHuman

Please post links to document your "facts" about SS Badger mercury and impact. Otherwise, without documentation, all you have is propaganda points.

Landsold

100pct you sound like Barack Obama after losing the debate. Looks like the only propaganda is your parced links.

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