Region 1: EPA New England

"No Discharge Zone" Requirements and Regulations

A "No Discharge Zone" is a designated body of water that prohibits the discharge of treated and untreated boat sewage. Federal Law prohibits the discharge of untreated sewage from vessels within all navigable waters of the U. S., which include territorial seas within three miles of shore. Boats with Type I and Type II Marine Sanitation Devices may discharge treated effluent in coastal waters UNLESS they are in a "No Discharge Zone". Type III marine sanitation devise is the only type that can be used legally in a "No Discharge Zone".

Under the Clean Water Act, states may petition, by a written application for a "No Discharge Zone" designation from the U. S. EPA Regional Administrator under Sections 312 (f)(3), 312 (f)(4)(A), or 312 (f)(4)(B) of the Clean Water Act. The three sections of the Clean Water Act have different criteria. Criteria (f)(3); the administrator determines that there are adequate and reasonably available facilities for the safe and sanitary removal and treatment of sewage. Criteria (f)(4)(A); the administrator determines that protection and enhancement of the specified waters requires prohibition. Criteria (f)(4)(B) is the establishment of a drinking water intake zone. EPA New England will usually look at criteria (f)(3) in the approval of a "No Discharge Zone".

In reviewing a "No Discharge Zone" application, there are seven requirements under 40 Code of Federal Regulations §140.4(a) pursuant to section 312 (f)(3) of the regulations:

  1. A certification that the protection and enhancement of the waters described in the petition require greater environmental protection than the applicable Federal standards;
  2. A map showing the location of commercial and recreational pumpout facilities;
  3. A description of the location of pumpout facilities within waters designated for a "No Discharge Zone";
  4. The general schedule of operating hours of the pumpout facilities;
  5. The draught requirements on the vessels that may be excluded because of insufficient water depth adjacent to the facility;
  6. Information indication the treatment of waste from such pumpout facilities is in conformance with Federal law; and
  7. Information on vessel population and vessel usage of the subject waters.

The EPA reviews these seven requirements in addition to the type of outreach campaign planned for mariners. The outreach campaign may include distribution of written material, visual material, and access to websites. The information may inform the public as to where the pumpout facilities are located, how to use them, and who to call for assistance. The information may be distributed to marinas, yacht clubs, boating associations, local governments, visitors, and other interested organizations. In addition an enforcement strategy should be in place. This might include what agencies would enforce and type of enforcement, should it be needed.

Sewage wastes discharged from boats may degrade water quality by introducing microorganisms, nutrients, and chemical products into the marine environment. Microorganisms may introduce diseases like hepatitis to people in contact with the water, and can contaminate shellfish beds. Nutrients use oxygen in the water and as a result, depressing oxygen levels as the sewage decays. Oxygen depletion or Hypoxia can stress fish and other aquatic animals. Chemical products can be toxic to marine and estuarine life and could pose a problem in areas where boats congregate and where there is little tidal flushing. Complying with vessel sewage discharge laws and regulations, and using pumpout facilities, are necessary step to protect public health, water quality, and the marine environment.

Vessels operating in United States freshwater lakes, reservoirs, other fresh water impoundments that have no ingress or egress and United States rivers that are not capable of navigation by interstate vessel traffic, which have a Marine Sanitation Devices on board, must prevent the discharge of treated and untreated sewage into these waters. Lakes and rivers of the US that do not drain to the sea must use a US Coast Guard certified Type III Marine Sanitation Device.