Manitowoc company that operates North America’s last coal-fired steamship faces
a tight deadline set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cease its
long-standing practice of dumping its ash, the waste that remains after the
coal is burned, into Lake Michigan. But a $75,000 grant from the Wisconsin
State Energy and the efforts of university researchers could, just maybe,
convert the vessel’s coal-fired boiler into one fueled by liquid natural gas.
researchers, from UW-Superior and the University of Minnesota at Duluth, are
pitching in under the auspices of the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute
as the S.S. Badger attempts to wean itself off coal. Ferrying passengers
between Manitowoc and Ludington, Mich., the regal ship “discharges more than
500 tons of waste ash from its coal boilers during a typical season,” according
to the Associated Press. AP also reports that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a
high-ranking Democrat, wrote a letter to Lake Michigan Carferry Service Inc.
earlier this year calling the liquid natural gas proposal “far-fetched.”
2010, the company lost a bid to win a stimulus grant to convert to diesel
power. In public statements, it has also said that an engineering firm is
designing “an ash retention system” for the ship.
EPA mandate gives the S.S. Badger until the end of this year to somehow stop