Advocacy groups to Washington state: Cruise ship MOU should ban scrubber, sewage discharges in Puget Sound

March 22, 2021

24,000+ people join, Friends of the Earth to support state agency in addressing pollution concerns, protecting orcas

Traditional Puget Sound Salish and Duwamish Lands (SEATTLE, WA) — More than 24,000 people joined environmental advocacy groups and Friends of the Earth in submitting public comments to support the Washington state Department of Ecology in addressing ongoing pollution concerns from cruise ships. 

Ecology sought comments on the state’s voluntary agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with the cruise industry during a public comment period that closed on Friday, March 19. 

The state has proposed amendments to the MOU to ban wastewater discharges from scrubber systems, which remove sulfur from the fuel exhaust plume but continuously dump the toxin-laden wastewater into Puget Sound, and to ban sewage discharges, so that the MOU better reflects the existing regulations of the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone. Environmental advocacy groups support both of these changes.

In addition to submitting a petition signed by 24,600 people and an additional 230 people who submitted individual comments to Ecology, environmental advocacy and neighborhood groups, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the San Juans, James Bay Neighbourhood Association, Pacific Environment, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Seattle Cruise Control, Washington Environmental Council, Zero Waste Washington, and 350 Seattle submitted a technical letter outlining their support for the amendments to the cruise ship MOU to better protect our marine ecosystems, including the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. 

Read the letter: 

“The pollution caused by discharged [scrubber] washwater impacts acidity of surrounding waters and is harmful to marine wildlife and ecosystems. Heavy metals and PAHs are of particular concern for marine mammals because they bioaccumulate in the food web and have been linked to negative health effects in marine mammal species, including Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs).These toxins found in scrubber washwater are putting the already imperiled SRKWs at even greater risk. Adopting this amendment and banning all discharges of exhaust gas scrubber washwater in Puget Sound and MOU waters will provide essential protections to the marine ecosystem,” reads the letter.

The waters included in the cruise ship MOU include Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca south of the international boundary with Canada; along Washington’s Pacific Coast extending three miles seaward; and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Several states and countries already ban scrubber discharges in port or in inland waters, including California, Hawaii, and Connecticut, as well as Norway, China, Singapore, Belgium, and the United Arab Emirates. 


Media contacts: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager,, +1 510 858 9902 (Pacific Time)