Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Keep It In, Keep It Clean: No Discharge Zone 101

August 1, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Do you boat in a “No Discharge Zone”? You probably do. Such zones, referred to as NDZ, are designated as such by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Boaters should know what is prohibited and required of them in such zones.

The EPA designates as NDZs those areas most likely to be affected by severe contamination, such as sheltered waters with low flushing rates, and waters with significant recreational values. As discharge of all sewage (treated or untreated) is prohibited in NDZs within three miles of the shoreline, what goes in your boat’s head must remain there until it can be properly pumped out. As the regulations encompass discharge from vessels, tossing over the contents of a dirty diaper and relieving oneself over the side are both taboo.

Boaters of vessels big and small often share a similar complaint about toilets, aka heads or marine sanitary devices (MSD): they frequently clog, back up, or overflow, and often can’t contain the noxious odor. How nice would it be, they muse, to just toss everything into the water? Not nice at all! No bypasses are permitted in a NDZ, as doing so poses a serious public health concern.

Human waste contains infectious and bio-harmful organisms, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, hormones, and antibiotics. Though these devices provide some waste treatment, passing the waste through the holding tank of a MSD does not neutralize its toxic stew. Rather, it adds unsafe chemicals, including formaldehyde, phenols, and chlorine. Dispersing such pollutants into waterways negatively impacts overall water quality, harms marine life, affects swimmers, and threatens the health of humans and land animals, especially if the contaminated water also feeds into wells or drinking water facilities.

The regulations don’t merely require the holding back of human waste in a MSD until the contents can be properly pumped out. They also specify the ways in which the device must be secured while in a NDZ, based on the type of MSD (see link below).

States may impose further restrictions on navigable waterways and/or other bodies of water not covered by federal law. The U.S. Coast Guard and local authorities charged with clean boating will enforce the NDZ. Boaters are subject to searches for compliance and violations can result in costly fines.

For more information on NDZs and ways to secure MSDs, see https://www.epa.gov/vessels-marinas-and-ports/vessel-sewage-discharges-no-discharge-zones-ndzs.

For a list of pumpout stations and boats in your area, visit http://www.goingcoastal.org/Maps/Entries/2012/3/30_Long_Island_Pumpout_Map.html.

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