New York Seeks End to Sewage Discharges by Boats In Long Island’s South Shore Estuary
DEC Applauds Partnership to Establish “No Discharge Zone” Designation And Improve Water Quality, Protect Recreation
With Long Island’s boating season soon in full swing, New York State is seeking to protect water quality in more than 110,000 acres of South Shore estuary waters by calling for an end to the release of sewage from boat toilets and holding tanks, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.
In a petition submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Commissioner Grannis requested that the South Shore Estuary Reserve be designated a “No Discharge Zone,” which would outlaw the discharges of treated or untreated sewage. The South Shore Estuary Reserve extends from the Nassau-Queens county line to the eastern end of Shinnecock Bay. The petition is supported by the Peconic Baykeeper and a number of Long Island communities.
“The designation of a No Discharge Zone in the open waters, harbors, bays and tributaries of the South Shore Estuary Reserve will strengthen the protection of important marine resources and help us restore critical habitat,” Commissioner Grannis said. “As EPA considers this request, I want to thank our partners involved in this effort, especially the municipalities and community organizations that initiated this petition.”
Treated and untreated wastes can deliver pathogens and toxins to local waters and contribute to harmful nutrient loadings. Waste treated by on-board septic systems often contains chemical additives such as formaldehyde, phenyls and chlorine. There are currently 11 No Discharge Zones designated in New York State: Lake George, Lake Champlain, Hudson River water intake zones, Mamaroneck Harbor, Peconic waters-East Hampton, Huntington-Northport Bay Complex, Port Jefferson Complex, Peconic Estuary, the Hudson River Estuary, Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor and Hempstead Harbor.
DEC’s request to EPA to add the South Shore Estuary to the list of No Discharge Zones originated with a petition submitted by Peconic Baykeeper to DEC on behalf of the towns of Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, Southampton and the Fire Island National Seashore, which have jurisdictions that include these water bodies. The petition focused on the need for additional water quality protection and the availability of area pumpout facilities in the area that boats could use as an alternative to discharging sewage.
Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper, stated that the proposed No Discharge Zone is an important step towards protecting the waters of the South Shore Estuary Reserve: “While there are a number of complex issues threatening the health and vitality of our waters, establishing a No Discharge Zone will have a meaningful and immediate effect on local water quality.”
DEC collaborated with the New York State Department of State to certify the need for greater protection and enhancement of these waters. The state Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) is also involved in the preparation for the designation by providing support for the establishment of pumpout facilities, as well as education and outreach. Through the NYS Clean Vessel Assistance Program (CVAP), which EFC manages under a contract with DEC, federal grants are available to public and privately owned marinas for pumpout facilities for the proper disposal of sewage waste from recreational boats. CVAP has provided more than $4.8 million for pumpout facilities statewide.
New York Secretary of State and Chair of the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Council Lorraine Cortez-Vasquez said: “I am very pleased that New York State has taken this important step toward a healthier ecosystem and cleaner water for our south shore bays and rivers. This effort shows the power of partnerships as local governments, nonprofits and the recreational boating industry worked together in a successful Reserve-wide effort to develop this petition. I urge the Environmental Protection Agency to quickly concur on establishing a No Discharge Zone.”
EFC Acting President Matthew Millea said: “EFC looks forward to working with DEC and the South Shore community in providing boaters with pumpout services to help support the No Discharge Zone designation and help keep our precious water resources clean for future generations.” Sufficient marine pumpout facilities are required under the federal Clean Water Act before a No Discharge Zone can be established. Upon concurrence by EPA that there are adequate pumpout facilities to support the designation, the proposed designation and an opportunity for public comment will be announced in the Federal Register. Following the public comment period, EPA will address comments and make a decision approving or rejecting the No Discharge Zone designation. If approved, the No Discharge Zone would be enforced by DEC Police, the New York State Police, the New York State Park Police, Suffolk County police, sheriffs offices, local police officers, harbormasters and bay constables.
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