The SS Badger is known in Michigan as a historic treasure. The ship is the last coal burning ferry in the U.S., but they've had to make some changes to keep up with regulations mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Badger has much of the same foundation it did when it was built back in 1953, but the EPA is requiring them to spend millions to update those systems if they want to continue running on The Great Lakes.
The car ferry crosses from Ludington, Mich. to Manitowoc, Wis. every day, and in doing so dumps about 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year, but new technology has decreased that by 15 percent this year.
â??What we did last winter was to reinstall the combustion control system that was originally in the ship using new technology that we could support maintenance wise,â?? said SS Badger Senior Chief Engineer Charles Cart. â??A nice byproduct of that it is more efficient than what was available in the fifties.â??
The combustion control system cost more than a million dollars and includes 2 miles of wires, along with new sensors, controls, switches and several other pieces of equipment.
â??The new system improves our combustion efficiency,â?? said Cart. â??Weâ??re getting more energy and use out of the fuel that we do burn. Therefore we burn less, and if you burn less you make less.â??
The system was part of a deal between the EPA, Department of Justice and Lake Michigan Carferry, the company who owns the SS Badger. In order to continue running, the Badger was required to reduce coal ash dumping in 2014, and must stop dumping all together by 2015. â??Instead of discharging the ash into the lake, weâ??ll collect it into some bins and will move the bins off the ship and move them to wherever it is that we need to dispose of them,â?? said Cart. â??Hopefully we can repurpose it with a cement company or road company. We'd rather not send it to the landfill but that is an option.â??
He said combustion control is the more difficult part of the two year process, so they're confident the retention system will be successful once it's installed next year.
â??Any new system is going to have bugs and gremlins you have to chase around and we've been doing that but it's been operating nicely,â?? said Cart. â??Were pleased with the results we've gotten, we're pleased with the ease-of-use, makes it easier on operators. Our fuel consumption is down, our ash generation is down, our stacks are cleaner. Overall it's been a positive thing.â??
They said theyâ??re confident efficiency has increased more than the 15 percent they were required to meet, but are still waiting to get enough data back to confirm.