Vessel Sewage Human Waste

Though it's against the law to dump untreated sewage into any navigable U.S. waters, some recreational boaters still discharge raw waste into coastal and inland waters. You might think that one person discharging human waste doesn't cause a problem. But with almost one million boats registered in California, pollution from vessel sewage can be a huge problem.

The Federal Clean Vessel Act of 1992 helps reduce pollution from sewage discharges from vessels. Under this Act, it is against the law to discharge untreated waste anywhere within the three-mile U.S. territorial limit. The U.S. Coast Guard can issue a citation up to $2,000 for the illegal discharge of waste. To avoid fines, use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Marine Sanitation Device (MSD) or a holding tank while out on the boat, and pump the contents out at a shoreside station.

A state or local peace officer who reasonably suspects that a vessel is discharging sewage in an area where the discharge is prohibited may board that vessel, if the owner or operator is aboard, for the purpose of inspecting the marine sanitation device for proper operation and placing a dye tablet in the holding tank.

The California Department of Boating and Waterways is using Clean Vessel Act funds to build additional vessel sewage pumpout stations throughout the state. Check with your local marina and look for the national symbol to find the closest pumpout station.

Clean Vessel Act PUMPOUT LOGO

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