Clean Water - Sewage, MSDs and Pumpout
Onboard sewage management is not a fun thing to think about, but it is a necessary part of your boat's systems. Over the last few years, there has been significant attention in the boating press about onboard heads, marine sanitation devices, portable toilets, and the availability of onshore pumpout stations. Here's a quick overview of the issues, as well as the laws relating to this subject.
Why Should I Care?No one wants to think about settling down in the cockpit after putting the anchor down and glancing out on the water to see floating toilet paper go by. However, if boaters follow existing laws, this won't occur. You can help take care of our harbors and other waters by following the law and making sure that your boat's Marine Sanitation Device (MSD) is working.
The Law:Federal law says that untreated sewage (even if it's been dosed with a deodorant product) can NOT be discharged in U.S. waters out to 3 miles offshore. This means the sewage from a portable toilet or a Type III holding tank can not be discharged unless you are in the ocean more than 3 miles offshore.
You are not required to have a toilet/head on your boat. (In fact, many people choose a portable toilet on their boat.) However, if you do have an installed toilet on your boat, you must have a USCG certified MSD Type I, II, or III attached to that toilet.
Federal law states that if you have a holding tank for untreated waste with a "Y" valve, it must be secured in the closed position while operating in U.S. waters. To adequately secure the device you should remove the valve handle or use a non-releasable wire tie or padlock.
What Can I Do?
- Understand the Basics of Boat Pumpout.
- When tied up to a dock, use onshore facilities. Encourage guests to take advantage of the onshore restrooms before you set out for a day trip.
- If your boat has a head, equip it with a USCG approved MSD Type, I, II, or III.
- Regularly maintain your MSD and the attached plumbing and install the best hose you can afford to reduce odors.
- Use enzyme deodorizers for holding tanks and portable toilets.
- Pump out before you haul your boat for the winter.
- Don't be afraid to talk about the issue. Talk your friends and fellow boaters about how to pumpout.
- Obey the law – keep untreated sewage out of all coastal and inland waters.
- Find out if you are boating in a No Discharge Zone – do not discharge any sewage, treated or not in a No Discharge Zone.
Did you know?… There are federal funds (from the Clean Vessel Act) currently available to the states to install more pumpout stations for boaters.