Lake Champlain

‘Trying to Do Our Part': Vt. Company Upgrades Ship Engines to Slash Pollution

The Spirit of Ethan Allen III will use a more than quarter-million dollar grant to upgrade its diesel engines to models that use less fuel and belch less smoke, which contains harmful particulate matter

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Big changes are coming to a prominent business in Burlington, Vermont, ones that visitors to the city’s waterfront may recognize.

The cruise ship Spirit of Ethan Allen III, which cruises Lake Champlain from May to October, is getting upgrades aimed at reducing diesel emissions.

“The air quality is going to be so much cleaner down at the waterfront,” predicted Kristin Bogovich.

The Spirit of Ethan Allen III holds parties, meals and weddings, and is also used for sightseeing.

All those trips have been powered by diesel engines since the 1990s, but the engines' technology was even older — having not really changed since World War II.

The Burlington, Vermont, waterfront is a popular destination for vacationers, offering views of Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

That meant the tour boat would belch black smoke that is bad for lungs and the planet, according to state environmental officials.

“It’s important to protect our natural resources,” observed Deirdra Ritzer of Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Vermont DEC helped the cruise provider secure nearly $270,000 the EPA sent the state to support projects that would improve air quality.

That grant will cover 40 percent of the cost of a new, cleaner diesel propulsion system that will burn less fuel and produce many fewer particles that impact public health along the waterfront.

“It all adds up,” Ritzer told NECN. “Hopefully, it’ll be a more pleasurable experience — there won’t be obvious air pollution being emitted.”

Without this grant money, the company said it likely would’ve kept those engines going for another four or five seasons, even though parts have become exceptionally difficult to locate without searching overseas. Had the engines kept on going, they would’ve kept on polluting.

The replacement units will cut an estimated 457.2 tons of diesel emissions in the period of time the old engines otherwise would have been operating, according to the DEC. The agency noted that most of that figure represents emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes in a big way to climate change.

“We respect our environment,” said Wilson Tucker, who is overseeing the upgrades as the chief engineer of the Spirit of Ethan Allen III.

Tucker said that he and the ship’s crew are really proud to take a step toward reducing their footprint, especially because they see clean air and water as being reasons why so many travelers love visiting Vermont.

“We’re just trying to do our part, like everyone else,” Tucker said.

The new engines and generators are scheduled to be up and running by May, in time for the start of the Spirit of Ethan Allen III’s season, the company said.

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