LUDINGTON, Mich. — The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency agreed to enter a revised consent agreement with a ferry operator that would stop the nation's last coal-fired ferryboat from dumping waste ash into Lake Michigan before the start of the 2015 sailing season.
A federal judge has to approve Friday's motion, the Ludington Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/182mHpC).
Lake Michigan Carferry, operator of the S.S. Badger, wants to install an ash retention system aboard the ship that hauls passengers, vehicles and cargo between its home port of Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wis., from May to October. Currently, ash from its boilers is mixed with water and piped overboard. More than 500 tons of ash is released during a typical season.
The consent deal also calls for a reduction in the amount of ash discharged this year and over the five-month 2014 sailing season.
"The revised consent decree has been strengthened based on public comments on the proposed consent decree that was lodged in March," said Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 administrator. "These revisions increase certainty that the S.S. Badger will stop discharging coal ash to Lake Michigan at the end of the 2014 sailing season."
The ship is the last remnant of the once-thriving carferry industry in Ludington, northwest of Grand Rapids. It offers a four-hour cruise across 60 miles of open water, an alternative to driving between Michigan and Wisconsin by way of crowded Chicago.
"The consent decree process has been extensive and has taken much longer than we had hoped," Lake Michigan Carferry chief Bob Manglitz said in a statement. "This action is a huge milestone on the long road we have been traveling to keep the Badger sailing."
The Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center said Friday that the revisions improve the consent deal, but the environmental group wants to make sure Lake Michigan Carferry gets no extensions beyond the 2014 sailing season.
"These improvements are steps in the right direction, but it's time to require a complete end to the S.S. Badger's dumping of toxic coal ash pollution in Lake Michigan," the group's executive director, Howard Learner, said in a release. "Enough is enough. Let's protect our Great Lakes."
Information from: Ludington Daily News, http://www.ludingtondailynews.com