Boston Harbor Earns "No Discharge" Designation

With state and local backing, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is designating Boston Harbor as a "No Discharge" area, according to a recent press release.

This status means that discharges of treated and untreated boat sewage are prohibited within these Massachusetts state waters, including the towns and cities of Boston, Braintree, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Hingham, Hull, Milton, Newton, Quincy, Watertown, Weymouth, and Winthrop.

In May, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), in partnership with the cities of Boston and Quincy, and the Urban Harbor Institute, petitioned EPA to approve the No Discharge designation. Following consideration of the request, and a 30-day public review and comment period, EPA will approve the request to protect these coastal waters from boat sewage.

"Designating a major urban shipping waterway like Boston Harbor as a no discharge area is an important milestone in EPA's effort to protect the entire New England coastline from boat sewage," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Once again, we are seeing forward-looking New Englanders showing the way to the rest of the country about how we can better protect our environment."

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said, "Designation of Boston Harbor as a No-Discharge Area puts an exclamation point on the work that's already been done to bring this jewel of our city back. This summer more than ever, Boston's beaches and islands will be a destination for residents trying to beat the heat and show the kids a fun time without having to fill the tank. The city of Boston has committed to providing more pumpout facilities including a new pumpout boat to ensure that, from the beaches of South Boston to Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor is an even cleaner and more vibrant place for our residents, families and visitors to enjoy."

To quality for a No Discharge designation, the applicant must show there are enough "pumpout" facilities where boaters can get their sewage holding tanks pumped out. This particular area has an estimated 8,720 boats, of which only 4,047 are large enough to have a head or toilet on board. There are a total of 35 pumpout facilities in the designated area available to the boating community. In addition, there are four pending pumpout facilities that should be operational this boating season.

Boat sewage can lead to health problems for swimmers, closed shellfish beds, and the overall degradation of marine habitats.

The Urban Harbors Institute, the city of Boston, and the city of Quincy initiated the No Discharge Area designation process in the summer of 2007 to safeguard local marine resources.

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