EPA and New York State Announce Ban on Dumping Sewage from Boats into Lake Ontario

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently announced that a 3,675 square mile area of Lake Ontario is now a “no discharge zone,” which means that boats are completely banned from discharging sewage into the water. EPA reviewed DEC’s proposal to establish a no discharge zone for the lake and determined that there are adequate facilities in the area for boats to pump out their sewage. Boaters must now dispose of their sewage at one of the lake’s 37 specially-designated pump-out stations. This action is part of a joint EPA and New York State strategy to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the state’s waterways.

“Clean water is one of New York’s most valuable assets, and pumping sewage from boats into local waters is a practice that is both harmful and completely unnecessary,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Lake Ontario provides drinking water to hundreds of thousands of New York residents. Establishing a no discharge zone for the lake is an important step in cleaning up New York’s treasured water bodies.”

"The designation of Lake Ontario as a 'no discharge zone' by the EPA strengthens New York's efforts to improve water quality in the Great Lakes by stopping pollution from boaters," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "We will continue to work with the EPA, Environmental Facilities Corporation, Department of State and other partners to reach our common goal of swimmable, drinkable and fishable Lake Ontario waters to support our health, economy and quality of life.”

Discharges of sewage from boats can contain harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine, which have a negative impact on water quality, pose a risk to people’s health and impair marine life. EPA reviewed public comments on its tentative determination for the establishment of a no discharge zone, which was proposed in May 2011.

The no discharge zone encompasses the New York portion of Lake Ontario, including the waters of the Lake within the New York State boundary, stretching from the Niagara River (including the Niagara River up to Niagara Falls) in the west, to Tibbetts Point at the Lake’s outlet to the Saint Lawrence River in the east. The no discharge zone encompasses approximately 3,675 square miles and 326 shoreline miles, including the navigable portions of the Lower Genesee, Oswego, Black Rivers and numerous other tributaries and harbors, embayments of the Lake including Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, North/South Ponds, Henderson Bay, Black River Bay and Chautmont Bay, and an abundance of formally designated habitats and waterways of local, state, and national significance.

For centuries, Lake Ontario has played an important role in the history of New York State and several Indian Nations. In addition to being a place of great natural beauty, the Lake serves as an economic engine for the region, and is a source of drinking water for seven hundred and sixty thousand people. The lake’s water quality is designated as “Class A,” which means that it’s recommended for drinking, swimming, fishing, and in the commercial processing of food.