With a new sailing season set to begin in about a month, the legal agreement between owners of the Badger car ferry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency amounts to a compromise that will give the ship a temporary reprieve from federal clean water regulations.
In return, the ship’s owners agreed to a court-enforced deal that requires them to stop discharging coal ash into the lake by the end of the 2014 sailing season. Currently the ferry dumps about 509 tons of coal ash a year — waste concentrated with arsenic, lead, mercury and other heavy metals.
In their application last year for a new Clean Water Act permit, the Badger’s owners sought five more years to fix the ship’s pollution problems. By 2017, they said, they would have installed new equipment to store coal ash onboard.
They also lobbied lawmakers and Obama administration officials in Washington for a permanent exemption from EPA oversight and sought to protect the ship as a National Historic Landmark. If those efforts had been successful, the Eisenhower-era ship could have polluted the lake indefinitely.
“What is important here is we have a deadline for them to stop discharging coal ash into the lake and it is judicially enforceable,” said Susan Hedman, the EPA’s regional administrator.
Under the legal deal, the Badger’s owners agreed to a complex formula that requires them to reduce the ferry’s coal ash discharges during the 2013 and 2014 sailing seasons. They also will pay a $25,000 fine for violating mercury water quality standards in 2012.
Built in 1953 to carry railroad cars, the Badger is billed today as a nostalgic vacation shortcut between Wisconsin and Michigan. Supporters have organized a public relations campaign that promotes the car ferry as an important part of the tourist economy in its port cities of Manitowoc, Wis., and Ludington, Mich.
“The resolution of this issue has taken far longer than we had hoped, but the end result has been worth the effort,” Bob Manglitz, president and chief executive officer of the Lake Michigan Carferry Service, said in a statement posted on the Badger’s website. “We appreciate the support we have received from our elected representatives in Michigan and Wisconsin and the encouragement of the thousands of people who have supported our efforts to keep the Badger sailing.”
Courtesy of chicagotribune.com