Submitted by a coalition of Washington environmental groups
On April 10, the Washington State Department of Ecology established Puget Sound as an official No Discharge Zone under federal and state rules. This rule prohibits ships and boats from discharging raw or partially treated sewage across 2,300 square miles of marine waters as well as contiguous waters around Lake Washington and Lake Union. Gray water from onboard sinks, showers and other non-toilet uses is not restricted by this rule.
Sewage contains bacteria and other pathogens that threaten shellfish beds and public health, especially in communities that subsist on local fish. Within No Discharge Zone boundaries, boaters are required to hold sewage on board their vessels for disposal at pump-out facilities or outside the zone’s boundaries. Puget Sound will now join more than 90 other Zones around the country, including in the Great Lakes and the entire California coast. It will be the first one in Washington state.
“Establishing a Puget Sound No Discharge Zone resonates with our members around the country, said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director for Friends of the Earth. “Literally tens of thousands of people took action to express their support.”
“We verified that pumpout facilities provide adequate coverage for commercial and recreational vessels,” said Heather Trim of Futurewise. “In fact, many private companies already serve these vessels and are available as the remaining vessels comply with this rule.”
“This common-sense action has broad support, and we’re happy to see this process is complete,” said Stephanie Hillman, a Northwest campaign representative for the Sierra Club.
“This is a big step for all who care about clean water in the Sound and we are excited to see this important policy move forward,” said Chris Wilke, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper. “This has been a long and comprehensive process with extensive public involvement. We are thrilled to see Puget Sound now able to enjoy the protections received by so many other waterways around the country.”
“Establishing the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone has been years in the making,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound program director for Washington Environmental Council. “The Department of Ecology, under Maia Bellon’s leadership, has shown a tireless dedication to giving everyone in our region a safer, healthier place to live.”
Additional details about the rule:
The vast majority of commercial and recreational boats already comply with this rule. Over 100 pumpout stations serve the region, and provide low- or no-cost convenient service. Free adapters are offered for recreational vessels to connect with pumpouts around the region.
The department of ecology released a draft petition for the No Discharge Zone in 2014 after two years of stakeholder engagement with industry groups, environmental organizations, government agencies, and the public, drawing over 25,000 comments in support. Another two years of extensive stakeholder engagement led to the final petition to the US Environmental Protection Agency in July 2016. In February 2017, EPA confirmed that sewage pumpout facilities are adequate and available to serve commercial and recreational vessels, after receiving over 40,000 comments in support. Some commercial vessels have five years to comply so that they can upgrade their sewage systems.
“To show our support and excitement for the No Discharge Zone rule, we are hosting a Puget Sound Plunge on May 8 at Golden Gardens Bathhouse,” adds Rein Attemann, Washington Environmental Council. “What better way to celebrate cleaner water than jumping into the Puget Sound?”
For more information about the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone proposal, visit www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/nonpoint/CleanBoating/nodischargezone.html
For specifics on pump out stations see www.pumpoutwashington.org.