No Discharge Zone continues to protect Puget Sound

EPA confirms there are enough pumpout facilities to support a No Discharge Zone

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed their economic analysis of the No Discharge Zone (NDZ) and reached the same conclusion we did — the cost of preventing vessels from dumping sewage in Puget Sound is well worth the benefits we gain in protecting and restoring Puget Sound.

EPA did this economic analysis because of a lawsuit filed in 2018 by the American Waterways Operators (AWO), challenging EPA's determination that there are adequate pumpout facilities in Puget Sound to support a No Discharge Zone. The lawsuit is still active, but we wanted to share this important update.

Find out more about the lawsuit in our Dec. 2019 blog post or read EPA's reaffirmation document

Why does Washington have an NDZ?

We established the NDZ in 2018 to stop the discharge of both treated and untreated sewage from boats into state waters. Puget Sound is a regional treasure of great economic importance, and preventing vessel sewage from being released throughout Puget Sound is a common-sense decision. The NDZ is an important part of protecting and restoring the sound.

Vessel sewage can contain bacteria and viruses that are harmful to people and the environment. These contaminants are harmful to water quality, beaches, and shellfish beds. Eating shellfish that've been exposed to pollution can make people sick. The presence of one type of bacteria, fecal coliform, has closed shellfish beds throughout Puget Sound

While this is Washington’s first NDZ, there are more than 90 No Discharge Zones in 27 states. EPA approved the Puget Sound NDZ and has continued to approve NDZs across the country, including a new NDZ in Maryland on Dec. 16, 2019. View the full list of EPA-approved NDZs.

To learn more about why we have an NDZ and how it protects Puget Sound, read our April 2018 blog post.

What's next for Washington's NDZ?

Boaters will continue to use the more than 100 recreational and commercial pumpouts to safely dispose of vessel sewage on Puget Sound. We are working with Washington State Parks and other partners to establish more pumpouts in convenient locations.

We will continue providing technical assistance to help industry on their extended compliance timeframe. Vessel operators have begun investing in retrofits and all vessels will be fully retrofitted to hold sewage by 2023.

This summer, look out for our new NDZ logo, signs, and other materials as we help boaters remember and help them find resources to keep doing the right thing by using pumpouts!