How do cruise ship toilets work and why do they stop working?
Cruise ships produce and dump at sea over 250,000 gallons of gray water and 30,000 gallons of black water per day according to the advocacy group Oceana. Gray water is the water that goes down the drain from the sink and the shower. Black water is the water filled with sewage that leaves the toilet.
The plumbing generally operates on a vacuum system when you flush rather than on pure gravity, since waste might have to travel through lateral pipes and even upward rather than just down to reach its destination. And our Galveston injury attorneys point out hat the system of waste and water pipes on a cruise ship is huge. Add to that that cruise ships, like any sensible ships, are conservative regarding fresh water (since it has to be replenished from land) and you have a power-driven system that differs from those you are used to at home and in land-based hotels.
Cruise Ship Sewage Tanks and Plumbing Blockages can turn Your Vacation into an Odiferous Nightmare
Gray water goes into gray water tanks and black water goes into black water tanks. These tanks fill up quickly and their contents must be dumped at regular intervals. It generally requires power to pump the tanks' contents out. If the tanks aren't emptied, there is no place for new waste to go.
Immense, complicated cruise ship waste plumbing systems are easily blocked. If they are blocked or the tanks are full, our Galveston injury attorneys note that the toilets might back up. And sewage becomes spewage. If you've been on a cruise yourself, you might be personally familiar with just how easily a ship's plumbing system can become blocked.
Swimming at Sea: Where does all that Cruise Ship Waste Go?
Since the mid-1990s, when cruise ships could dump garbage into the sea without restrictions, the International Maritime Organization has mandated some minimal standards with regard to waste disposal. Our Galveston injury attorneys mention that different cruise lines have different policies with regard to how toilet waste is processed.
Some cruise lines voluntarily exceed the standards imposed by the International Maritime Organization. They might treat waste with chlorine or environmentally friendly bacteria before dumping it at sea. Some might even store waste in tanks to be pumped ashore for land-based treatment. Some retain certain amounts of gray water to be used as emergency water supplies if needed.
The United States lets cruise ships dump even untreated sewage into the sea as long as it's done at least 3 miles away from shore. If the cruise ship has treated the sewage, it can dump it anywhere. Think about that the next time you're swimming in the Gulf of Mexico in those grayish-brown waters.
Read about a Real World Example of a Cruise Ship Stranded with Running Sewage Swamping Floors
Read about the problem of the backed up sewage and feces on deck in the stranded Carnival Triumph. Click on this article by our Galveston injury attorneys.