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Huge Response Commenting on Proposed Puget NDZ

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The Washington state’s Department of Ecology plan to declare nearly all inland marine waters a no discharge zone drew more than 25,000 public comments during a review period that ended recently.

“That is a huge response, and more than expected,” said Amy Jankowick, the DOE administrator managing the plan to seek federal approval of the proposed NDZ, which would ban the discharge of human waste by vessels, even if treated. “I am not sure how that compares with other DOE programs, but it appears to be one of the biggest responses for the Water Quality program.”

What did all those respondents say? Jankowiak said her department is reviewing the responses and plans to be “composing a summary report by summer.”

Federal law already bans the discharge of untreated sewage within three miles of shore, which would include all of the waterways proposed for the NDZ. The department has said that nearly all pleasure and commercial vessels are fitted with holding tanks and that most discharge through onshore pump stations or beyond the three-mile boundary. The net effect of the rule would be a prohibition on the discharge of treated wastes from Type 1 and 2 marine treatment systems; it has been estimated that only a small percentage of pleasure and commercial vessels carry those systems.

Meanwhile, the board of directors of the Recreational Boaters Association of Washington (RBAW) reaffirmed its opposition to the NDZ proposal. Its policy statement says that “it is already illegal to dump black water and the change would eliminate the use type 1 and type 2 marine sanitation devices.”

RBAW said it would continue to share information with its yacht club members and send “Voter Voice E-lerts” to all members.

Other marine organizations also oppose an outright discharge ban on all waters, but would be open to discharge restrictions in “discrete zones,” including harbors with shell fish populations and recreational waters.