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Environmentalists have begun a process to sue a cruise company after a Las Vegas couple who were passengers aboard one of the ships accused the company of dumping chemicals into the San Francisco Bay.
After returning from an 11-day Alaska trip with Royal Caribbean Cruises in September, Alan and Maxine Silver said the ship, Mercury, dumped chemicals into the bay so noxious they chased away sea lions. Prompted by the charges, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, representing Bluewater Network in San Francisco, sent a letter of intent to file a lawsuit.
A spokesman for Miami-based Royal Caribbean, the second largest cruise ship line in the world, said the company "flatly denies all allegations by the Bluewater Network that its ship, Mercury, discharged illegally and/or polluted San Francisco's harbor in any way on Sept. 21, 1999."
The Silvers said the Mercury docked at San Francisco's Pier 35 on Sept. 21. Watching sea lions from their veranda, the Silvers smelled a very strong, noxious chemical odor and saw white, frothy liquid being discharged from the ship with an oil slick. The discharge continued for 30 minutes or more, and was so caustic that the sea lions scattered, they said. The chemicals smelled like perchloroethylene, a solvent used by the ship's on-board dry cleaning operation, the Silvers said.
In July 1999, Royal Caribbean agreed to pay $18 million after pleading guilty to dumping oil and hazardous chemicals from nine ships into national coastal waters.