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SKAGWAY, Alaska-The cruise ship industry has been good to Skagway, a southeastern community of approximately 900 people. Every year the vessels flock to the small gold rush town and inflate the population well beyond its winter-time numbers. Before the cruises start arriving, 2,000 cruise industry workers move back to Skagway for the season. Then, as cruise ships begin mooring at the former gold rush boom town, the population can increase by 14,000 per day as passenger dis-embark to see the sites, shop and ride the White Pass and Yukon route railroad.
While this is good for the local economy, the news is not all good. With the passengers comes waste. The increased population has strained the sewer system of the southeastern community to its limits.
The news of the strained facilities was made public last week when NPR released the names of two Alaska communities that made the Environmental Protection Agency’s secret watch list of towns in danger of violating the Clean Water Act.
When asked about the situation with their sewer system, Skagway city manager Tom Smith told the Juneau Empire that “It’s ‘don’t all flush the toilet at the same time,'” he went on to say that the community was aware of the problem and had been working towards remedying the situation with an upgrade of their system. A $6 million project that is underway and the upgraded facilities will be in place in time for the tourist season in the spring. “It will be able to provide more capacity, and a higher level of treatment,” Smith says.
Skagway first became a popular spot to dis-embark back in July of 1897, when the steamship “Queen” docked and unloaded a shipload of prospectors on the second leg of their journey to the Canadian gold fields 500 miles away.