LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) – A federal judge has signed off on a consent agreement with a car ferry operator that by 2015 will stop the country’s last coal-powered ferryboat from dumping waste ash into Lake Michigan.
The Ludington Daily News reports U.S. District Judge Janet Neff on Thursday approved the revised deal reached last month by the Environmental Protection Agency and Lake Michigan Carferry, which operates the SS Badger.
The agreement allows the Badger to continue to operate as it makes modifications. It calls for a reduction in the amount of ash discharged over the five-month 2014 sailing season. The ferry will have to store coal ash on board by the start of the 2015 season.
“The court finds that the proposed consent decree, as amended, is fair, reasonable, consistent with the purposes of the Clean Water Act … and in the public interest,” the opinion and order signed by Neff says.
Lake Michigan Carferry will 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 410-foot ship is the last remnant of the once-thriving car-ferry 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.
“LMC is pleased with this final ruling, and we’re pleased that we will be able to provide fun, reliable cross-lake transportation aboard the historic Badger more many years to come,” company spokeswoman Terri Brown said.
The EPA ordered the Badger to stop its ash-dumping practice in 2008 and granted a four-year grace period, which expired in December, raising the possibility that the vessel would be unable to continue sailing.
Lake Michigan Carferry and the EPA reached the consent deal earlier this year and revised it in September.
The Badger’s current season ends Sunday.
Information from: Ludington Daily News, http://www.ludingtondailynews.com