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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

California No-Discharge Rule Announcement

California's No Discharge Zone

Beginning in March 2012, the following vessels are prohibited from discharging all sewage, whether treated or not, while in California marine waters:

  • Large Passenger Vessels over 300 gross tons or more that have berths or overnight accommodations for passengers
  • Large Oceangoing Vessels over 300 gross tons, including private, commercial, government, or military vessels equipped with a holding tank with remaining capacity at time of entry or containing any sewage generated prior to entry to California marine waters.  

Background: In response to an application from the State of California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established this regulation under our Clean Water Act Section 312(f)(4)(A) authorities. EPA estimates the Rule will prohibit the discharge of over 22 million of the 25 million gallons of treated sewage that large vessels could otherwise legally discharge into California State marine waters each year. Even treated sewage can contain pathogens, nutrients and other contaminants that affect human and environmental health, and economic productivity. Prohibiting large vessel sewage discharges provides additional protection of California’s marine water quality.

California Marine Waters are defined as the territorial sea measured from the baseline as determined in accordance with the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone and extending seaward a distance of three miles, and all enclosed bays and estuaries subject to tidal influences from the Oregon border (41.999325 North Latitude, 124.212110 West Longitude, decimal degrees, NAD 1983) to the Mexican border (32.471231 North Latitude, 117.137814 West Longitude, decimal degrees, NAD 1983). A map illustrating these waters can be viewed at the No Discharge website.

Holding Tanks include any tank specifically designed, constructed, and fitted for the retention of treated or untreated sewage that has been designated and approved by the ship’s flag Administration on the ship’s stability plan; a designated ballast tank is not a holding tank for this purpose.

Gross Tons are measured under the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969, measurement system in 46 U.S.C. § 14302, or the regulatory measurement system of 46 U.S.C. § 14502 for vessels not measured under § 14302.

Other California NDZs for ten bays and marinas remain in effect for all vessels. Learn More » 

This No Discharge Zone overlaps with portions of the four NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, adjacent to the California coast (see map), and is consistent with the existing prohibitions on vessel sewage from large passenger and large oceangoing vessels within the Sanctuaries. 

More information on NOAA’s Sanctuary regulations.

Enforcement of the No Discharge Zone: The U.S. Coast Guard will inspect vessels for compliance with the no discharge zone pursuant to section 312(k) of the Clean Water Act. In order to verify compliance, the U.S. Coast Guard will use existing vessel examination and inspection authorities. The compliance examinations and inspections may include review of inspection records, visual inspections, evaluation of holding tank limits and review of any sewage logs, if applicable. The State can also enforce the NDZ.

Signing of the Final Rule

signing the final rule
Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld is joined by David Smith and Alexis Strauss of the Water program as he signs the final rule.

Numbers to call for sewage or other vessel spill violations

Coast Guard

San Francisco Area: 415-399-3547
Los Angeles/Long Beach Area:
San Diego Area: 619-278-7033

Federal National Response Center:

State of California:  800-852-7550

For Further Information

Paul Amato  415-972-3847
David Smith 415-972-3464

Media Contacts

Cal/EPA Deborah Hoffman, Director of Communications 916-324-9670 dhoffman@calepa.ca.gov

Cal/EPA Lindsay VanLaningham, Deputy Director of Communications, 916- 324-9670, LindsayV@calepa.ca.gov

State Water Resources Control Board - George Kostyrko, Director of Public Affairs 916- 341-7365 gkostyrko@waterboards.ca.gov

Sen. Simitian’s office, Lisa Gardiner, lisa.gardiner@sen.ca.gov, 916-651-4011

Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth, Oceans & Vessels Project Director, 415-544-0790 x223, mkeever@foe.org

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