Boaters are encouraged to take advantage of ShoreRivers' free pumpout boat in the mid-Eastern Shore as a No Discharge Zone is announced for the Chester River. Handout photo.

ShoreRivers Celebrates Chester River No Discharge Zone

Get the pumpout boat’s number out: the Chester River is now the second No Discharge Zone in Maryland’s Chesapeake region.

ShoreRivers, the mid-Eastern Shore riverkeeper organization, has been championing a No Discharge Zone in the Chester for years, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has designated the river as such. DNR defines a No Discharge Zone (NDZ) as “an area of water where the discharge of all boat sewage is prohibited. This includes raw sewage . . . as well as sewage treated by Type I or II marine sanitation devices.”

The NDZ will be marked with DNR buoys, and once inside the zone, boats with marine heads must pump their waste at a pumpout location (check for locations here:  shorerivers.org/programs/no-discharge-zone). Violators can face fines up to $1,000.

Chester Riverkeeper Annie Richards says, “Boat discharge, especially in marinas, high boat traffic areas, and sheltered coves, can lead to nutrient or bacteria pollution hotspots that pose serious health risks to humans and animals.”

While it’s illegal in most waterways to discharge raw, untreated waste, it is legal to discharge treated sewage. the NDZ goes a step further, banning even treated sewage from being released into the water. That’s because, Richards says, even if it does not contain bacteria pollution, it still contributes nutrient pollution.

ShoreRivers offers a free pumpout boat on the Miles and Wye Rivers, which begins running May 21. Funded by DNR and ShoreRivers together with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, the pumpout boat has removed more than 74,000 gallons of waste in the last four seasons. So if you’re cruising to or from the Chester, you can plan your trip to take advantage of the free pumpout on the Miles or the Wye.

Pumpout boat Captain Jim Freeman says, “Both transient and local boaters rave about the convenience of using the pumpout boat. We can serve any boater on the Miles and Wye rivers, and can carry up to 300 gallons of waste.”

Pumpout boat service is available Friday evenings and weekends (including holidays) during the summer and early fall. To arrange service, boaters can contact the pumpout boat by calling 410-829-4352 or on VHF channel 9.

-Meg Walburn Viviano