The last coal-fired steamship operating in U.S. waters is undergoing a makeover to meet the terms of a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate pollution from the disposal of coal ash.
Work on the 62-year-old SS Badger began last week in Ludington, Mich. at its operator, Lake Michigan Carferry. The 410-foot ferry, launched in 1952, travels between Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Ludington and can carry 600 passengers and 180 vehicles.
A new conveyor system will transport ash from the Badger’s boiler to retention units being built on its car deck 180 feet away. Ash will be stored in four containment bins.
Chuck Cart, who has been chief engineer of the Badger for 19 years, said the conveyor will be in place in time for the start of sailing May 15 and will allow the Badger to operate in compliance with the EPA’s mandate to stop discharging coal ash.
The conveyor system was designed and built for the Badger by Hapman Conveyors of Kalamazoo. Installation is expected to take six weeks.
Previously, ash was transported from the boiler to an onboard retention area, mixed with Lake Michigan water and discharged in a slurry into the lake.
The ash will be sold for use in cement-making, said Chuck Leonard, vice president for navigation of Lake Michigan Carferry.
Together with an improved combustion system added last winter, the projects represent about a $2.2 million to $2.4 million investment in the Badger over the past two years, Leonard said.
According to Leonard, the Badger used 15 percent less coal during the 2014 sailing season than in 2013.
The Badger, Cart said, was built to the standards of its day, which once allowed trash and sewage of all lake vessels to be jettisoned overboard. As those standards have changed, the Badger has been modified to meet the new standards, he said.