Most boaters know that discharging raw sewage from a boat is illegal in Bay waterways. But now, boaters in more than a dozen Anne Arundel County, Md. waterways are also barred from releasing treated sewage as well.
A federally approved No Discharge Zone (NDZ) officially went into effect July 1 for 13 bodies of water, including Annapolis Harbor. The Severn River Association, Anne Arundel County, and the City of Annapolis joined together to call for a No Discharge Zone. The Maryland departments of Natural Resources and the Environment applied to the feds for this protection back in May 2020.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviewed the request and sought public comment, and the NDZ is now final. The reasoning for this protection was the high concentration of boats and popularity of water-contact activities in the area.
Keeping sewage out of the water can reduce pollution-fueling nutrients. On the Eastern Shore, the Chester River is already designated as a No Discharge Zone.
“The NDZ designation will help the city and county close a gap in their efforts to attain their Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goals, which focus on the reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus,” said Annapolis Deputy City Manager for Resilience and Sustainability Jacqueline Guild.
Before now, it was legal to discharge waste that is treated by certified onboard Type I or II marine sanitation devices. But the City of Annapolis says that’s not enough to keep the water clean.
“Current on-board treatment systems do not reduce these nutrients that stimulate plant and algae growth, which in turn, leads to less oxygen in the water for aquatic life. The NDZ will also raise awareness among the general public that all vessels must use a pump-out station or pump-out boat to dispose of waste.”
From now on, boats will have to store sewage in their holding tanks (90 percent of recreational boats have them installed, according to DNR) and have them emptied at one of Maryland’s 350-plus pumpout stations. As part of the NDZ approval process, EPA verified that there are adequate pumpout stations near each of the affected bodies of water.
“The No Discharge Zone is an important protection for some of our most important waterways,” Maryland DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “This is another great example of how Maryland is enhancing recreation while also protecting our natural resources, so we are pleased that this important policy is moving forward.”
The complete list of waters in the NDZ is available online.
If you need to report a non-working pumpout station, email [email protected] or call 410-260-8772. If you see an NDZ violation take place, call MDE at 410-537-3510 (weekdays) or 866-MDE-GOTO (evenings and weekends).
-Meg Walburn Viviano