Gov. Deval Patrick announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the designation of all state coastal waters in the Commonwealth as a No Discharge Area (NDA), which will preserve and protect the Commonwealth’s coastline by banning commercial and recreational vessels from releasing sewage anywhere along the coast.
“Clean and healthy coastal waters are essential for the wellbeing of the Commonwealth’s economy and environment,” said Patrick. “The designation of the Commonwealth’s coastal waters as a No Discharge Area means that we are protecting one of our most precious natural resources for generations to come.”
When Governor Patrick took office in 2007, only 16 percent of state waters had been designated as No Discharge Areas. The Patrick Administration set a goal of a statewide designation by 2014. To reach that goal, in March, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) submitted the NDA application for the few remaining areas of the coast through the state’s Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), capping 22 years of extensive work by CZM, communities and their partners to ensure the necessary waste pumpout facilities are available for boaters to use.
NDAs protect water quality and aquatic life from pathogens, nutrients and chemical products contained in discharged sewage and also reduce the risk of human illness, making it safer to swim, boat, fish and eat shellfish from protected waters. NDAs can also help reduce the growth of harmful algae that occurs due to high nutrient levels in sewage discharge and protect clam-fishing flats.
To help boaters comply with no discharge requirements, there are more than 100 boat sewage pumpout facilities conveniently located along the Massachusetts coast. Many of these facilities are pumpout boats, which have the added convenience of bringing the pumpout to the boater. Most of the recreational pumpout facilities were funded through the Commonwealth’s Clean Vessel Act Program, administered by the Division of Marine Fisheries and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sportfish Restoration Program. In addition, several commercial pumpout facilities were partially funded by the state’s Coastal Pollutant Remediation grant program administered by CZM.
In addition to the public pumpouts, commercial boat owners have invested in their own infrastructure and facilities to ensure clean operations of their marine business. The Steamship Authority, for example, retrofitted its entire vessel fleet and constructed shore-side pumpouts to allow for the offloading of waste while its ferries are in terminal. And the “Island Queen,” a family-owned business, began managing their waste effectively with the purchase of a pumpout boat for their vessels. Under the Clean Water Act, a body of water can be designated as an NDA if state and federal authorities determine it is ecologically and recreationally important enough to merit protection above and beyond that provided by existing state and federal laws. In Massachusetts, CZM works closely with communities and EPA to establish NDAs as part of a comprehensive regional water quality approach.
The Patrick Administration has invested $2.8 million in keeping polluted stormwater from threatening shellfish beds and beaches through CZM’s Coastal Pollutant Grant Program.