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The following article on No Discharge Zones and Type I Marine Sanitation Devices was written by Tom Neale, a well known cruising writer and ongoing columnist for Boatus.com. BoatU.S. members have a wide array of strong opinions on this topic. This article represents Tom’s views; it does not reflect a BoatU.S. policy position.
Maryland Moves to Increase Pollution in Chesapeake
By Tom Neale
We share a passion, you and I. Our passion is for clean waters. And we share a commitment to work together to achieve clean waters.
1. It is already illegal for a boat to discharge sewage. Statements that the establishment of No Discharge Zones means the establishment of areas where sewage may not be discharged are inaccurate and misleading.
2. No Discharge Zones (NDZ) actually contribute to unclean water and the dumping of waste.
3. There are now two effective ways to handle waste from people on boats.
a. Pumpout. This puts huge amounts of raw waste, per pumpout, into septic tanks near the water or into government operated sewage systems which frequently dump into the water during hard rains and breakdowns.
b. Certified Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) which treat the sewage on a flush by flush basis to a degree that equals or exceeds standards of sanitation plants on land and that exceeds the water quality standards applicable to shell fishing grounds, with respect to bacterial and viral reduction.
Their performance has been validated by recognized independent third parties and government agencies.
i. The EPA had two MSDs tested by an independent research facility and the findings, reported to EPA September 18, 2008, were that the Electro Scan Model EST 12, even though forced to process sewage far in excess of that applicable to private pleasure craft, produced an effluent with almost no pathogen content, including fecal coliform bacteria.
ii. The report found some nutrient in the effluent but at an inconsequential level. The Australian government commissioned a test for nutrients from a LectraSan discharge. It found from samples taken from water immediately outside the discharge port, at flushing, to be of no measurable relevant value. (Appendix 1)
iii. The EPA has failed to make public this test, even though it is aware that the legislature of Maryland is now considering legislation concerning this issue. An EPA official stated on March 5, 2010 that the report is “working its way through the final approval phase.” Addendum: as of March 12, 2010 we’ve received information that the EPA has finally posted this report on its site. http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/pubs/600r10008/600r10008.pdf.
4. The legislature of the state of Maryland is considering having all of its waters declared NDZ. This is not just about lakes and enclosed basins, but also the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay; thus the need for this discussion. See BoatU.S. press release at http://www.boatus.com/pressroom/release.asp?id=482 for information. The Bay holds around 15 trillion gallons of water, is open to the Atlantic Ocean, and has an unimaginable volume of water continuously flushing through it. Its shoreline, including tributaries, is greater than that of the US west coast. Around half of the water in the Bay flows in from the Atlantic, the rest comes from the tributaries of its enormous watershed.
5. No Discharge Zones (NDZs) don’t improve water quality. They reduce the ways of handling sewage on boats from two ways (pumpouts and MSDs) to only one because they prohibit use of the MSDs. See, for example, some of Chuck Husick’s comments (Technical Editor of BoatUS Magazine and Editor of Chapman’s—among many other qualifications) at http://blog.tradeonlytoday.com/tradetalk/?p=161%22 and http://www.raritaneng.com/pdf_files/lectrasan/MSD%20White%20Paper,%20Response.pdf.
6. Pumpouts are not a viable solution in many circumstances. In those circumstances, onboard treatment is the only viable solution.
a. Large vessels often cannot access pumpout stations because the stations are in areas of shallow water, or limited or even dangerous maneuverability or otherwise inaccessible.
b. Vessels at anchor or underway are often unable to access pumpout stations because of weather. A vessel at anchor in bad weather, for example, usually cannot safely up anchor and get into a pumpout station should its tank become full.
c. Often pumpout stations are inoperative.
d. When a boat’s holding tank is full with no pumpout access and no MSD aboard, the owner is forced to dump concentrated amounts of raw sewage overboard. Humans cannot cease bowel movements or urination for long periods of time.
e. Even smaller boats, out for a day of fishing or beaching, often fill their holding tanks with no effective way to deal with the problem short of racing in early to a pumpout which may not be working. Lacking an MSD, they then are often forced to dump the sewage.
f. In areas which have been established as NDZs, health officials have repeatedly had to close the waters to shell fishing, because of high fecal coliform counts, during periods of increased boating such as July 4 and Labor Day. (See Appendix 2 below)
7. Prohibiting the use of certified MSDs discourages the public from purchasing them and discourages companies from manufacturing them and improving the technology.
8. The very process of creating NDZs contributes to unclean waters.
a. To establish an NDZ a locality must show that there are adequate pumpout facilities. The EPA is not verifying the accuracy of the information being provided by various local governments. For example, the agency only looks at the alleged number of pumpout facilities. The agency does not investigate the accessibility of the facilities to all boats such as larger boats, deep draft boats and single screw boats.
b. There are many large areas in Maryland, such as long rivers which have heavy boat concentrations, where there are inadequate or no pumpout facilities
c. Further, it does not consider that fact that some of the facilities are in areas that preclude their use for long periods of time. These areas include haulout docks and fuel docks.
d. Further, it is deemed irrelevant that at periods of high need, such as the end of a weekend, the number of facilities are totally inadequate, even if they are working.
e. Once an NDZ is designated the EPA does not police the area to determine that the pumpouts functioning at the time of the designation continue to work and be available. (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04613.pdf) This results in increased discharge of sewage.
f. After Rhode Island established an NDZ in its waters, Darrel Nicholson, then Associate Editor of Cruising World Magazine, made repeated attempts to obtain pumpouts at locations at which the state, in its representations to EPA and the public, claimed to have facilities. He found almost none available. The state’s claims had not been accurate and the government had not followed up.
9. Few bureaucrats working for local environmental agencies have tested and observed the effectiveness of approved MSDs. Instead, they often rely on misrepresentations of some in the private sector who stand to profit from government grants and sales and from the proliferation of pumpout stations. They then pass on this misinformation to politicians, the media and the public.
a. Marinas receive government funds to install pumpout stations. Some feel threatened by some state environmental agents to support the pumpout-only program if they want approvals for their operation and expansion.
b. The pumpout industry benefits from government funding.
c. Local government grant supported programs also benefit from federal funds for pumpout programs.
10. News media are given incomplete information by many environmental officials and they provide a steady stream of misinformation to the public. (http://www.wect.com/Global/story.asp?S=12025219) Also see Appendix 3.
11. The public is misled into thinking that NDZ proposals add to environmental protection rather than diminish it. Popular news media and many government officials misinform the public into thinking that the establishment of an NDZ prohibits discharge of sewage, which is already prohibited.
12. Many politicians know that they can create the illusion that they are “doing something” by proposing NDZs. They know that the misinformed public doesn’t realize that an NDZ diminishes rather than increases tools to deal with the issue. Thus they can avoid going after wealthy massive polluters such as municipalities, large farm operations and factories.
(http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/cso/cpolicy_report2004.cfm, also http://www.waterworld.com/index/display/news_display/141790233.html, also http://www2.counton2.com/cbd/news/local/article/dhec_lifts_ashley_river_advisory_following_sewage_spill/115821, also http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/02/AR2010030202408.html, also http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/us/13water.htm. Also see Miami Herald 10-08-09) and http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x531838549/Officials-respond-to-sewage-spill-in-Mount-Hope-Bay.
13. When municipalities, industry and other sources dump raw sewage into the waters, many politicians and bureaucrats feel safe in either overlooking the incidents or describing them as not very harmful. (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010513686_websewage15m.html also http://www2.counton2.com/cbd/news/local/article/dhec_lifts_ashley_river_advisory_following_sewage_spill/115821)
14. The boater is utilized by some politicians and bureaucrats as an easy target in order to avoid effectively doing the necessary but difficult job of truly achieving clean waters.
15. There exists the possibility that some parties pushing this NDZ designation are guilty of deliberately harming the environment and dirtying the waters for monetary and political gain.
16. It has long been part of our environmental law that parties knowingly causing environmental harm be subject to both civil and criminal penalties, upon appropriate findings and rulings. In this instance, the fox is guarding the henhouse.
17. It has long been our law that parties knowingly slandering products of private companies are subject to civil procedure and penalties. The victims of this slander are private companies which are marketing and improving modern technology to contribute to clean water.
18. Boating organizations which ignore this development are ignoring their responsibility to work for clean waters.
19. Members of the public who care about clean waters should work to increase rather than decrease methods of dealing with the problem. Both tools, (pumpouts and certified MSDs) should be utilized and efforts to improve existing tools and create better ones should be encouraged, not killed. (See, for example, http://ndztruth.blogspot.com/)
Appendix 1: from
AUSTRALIAN VESSEL SEWAGE REGULATIONS
ISSUE: Clean Waters Act 1970 (equivalent to U.S. No Discharge Area Designation)
Comments by NSW Ministers Advisory Committee Chairman on the Committees Findings 1997:
Tests conducted on the Lectra San EC Type I MSD
Results submitted to the NSW Waterway Authority and the EPA from a recognized laboratory for tests conducted as per the International Standards set down in MARPOL Annex IV. In addition to the requirements of MARPOL Annex IV, testing for additional elements, namely nutrients was required before approval.
Testing Laboratory: Macquarie Laboratories
Specimen Type: Treated Effluent from LECTRA SAN EC
||Total Plate Count (cfu/ml)
||Total Coliform Count (cfu/100ml)
||Faecal Coliform Count (cfu/100ml)
||Escherichia Coli Count (cfu/100ml)
||Faecal Streptococci Count (cfu/100ml)
Testing Laboratory: GM Laboratories Pty. Ltd.
Specimen Types: Raw Sewage, Seawater & Treated Effluent
(as N) (mg/l)
|BOD (5) (mg/l)
||Faecal Coliform (counts 100ml)
||Oxidised Nitrogen (as N) (mgN/l)
|Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (mg/l)
||Less than 0.1
||Less than 2
|Treated Effluent Lectra/San
The Lectra/San EC & MC were Approved for use in Australia.
USCG LNM District One, 2005, Weeks 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34.
USCG LNM District One, 2006, Weeks 28, 29, 34, 35.
USCG LNM District One, 2007, Weeks 34, 35, 26, 27, 28.
USCG LNM District One, 2008, Weeks 34, 35.
USCG LNM District One , 2009, Weeks 26, 27, 28 29 34 35.
Copies of various news paper articles are available. Size of PDF files precludes inclusion here.
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Copyright 2004-2010 Tom Neale