EPA Tentatively Backs Puget Sound NDZ Determination

The Washington State Department of Ecology petitioned for the designation to EPA Region 10, seeking a determination that adequate facilities for the safe and sanitary removal and treatment of sewage from all vessels are reasonably available for those waters, and so the state may completely prohibit the discharge from all vessels of any sewage into the sound.

EPA announced Nov. 7 that it is tentatively approving a proposed Puget Sound No Discharge Zone, seeking comments on the decision. Environmental groups have been seeking this NDZ for years; a No Discharge Zone is an area set aside where ships and boats are not allowed to discharge vessel sewage of any kind, being required to hold sewage on board for disposal at onshore pump-out facilities or outside the zone's boundaries. The EPA notice says the agency has determined adequate facilities for pump-out are reasonably available for Puget Sound.

While there are more than 70 NDZs nationwide, this would be the first one in Washington State. "A No Discharge Zone is an important step for Puget Sound recovery," said Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper and executive director of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. "These zones have been highly successful in other areas to protect human health, shellfish resources, and sensitive habitat for fish and wildlife. It's high time we had one for all of Puget Sound."

"As shipping traffic and ship size continues to increase, vessels are generating a growing volume of air and water pollution. Without the protection of a No Discharge Zone, Puget Sound would be facing even greater ecosystem harm from ship sewage," said Marcie Keever, Oceans and Vessels Program director for Friends of the Earth.

The Washington State Department of Ecology petitioned for the designation to EPA Region 10, seeking a determination that adequate facilities for the safe and sanitary removal and treatment of sewage from all vessels are reasonably available for those waters, and so the state may completely prohibit the discharge from all vessels of any sewage, whether treated or not, into the sound. Ecology proposed an NDZ for all marine waters of Washington State inward from the line between New Dungeness Lighthouse and the Discovery Island Lighthouse to the Canadian border, and fresh waters of Lake Washington, Lake Union, and connecting waters between and to Puget Sound.

"This EPA region is the only one in the country that has not established any No Discharge Zones," said Heather Trim, director of Science and Policy for Futurewise. "We are all pleased that this zone is finally being established."

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