Seeking to safeguard water quality and improve recreational opportunities, state officials announced this week that they are calling for New York's portion of Lake Ontario to be designated as a "Vessel Waste No-Discharge Zone" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A No-Discharge Zone designation means boaters are banned from discharging on-board sewage into the water. They must instead dispose of sewage at specially designated pump-out stations, which can be found at many marinas.
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. These pollutants can harm water quality, pose a risk to people's health, and impair marine life and habitats.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation, in collaboration with the state Environmental Facilities Corporation and the Department of State, has prepared a petition to the EPA requesting the designation to protect the waters of Lake Ontario.
Since 1976, DEC has designated most of the coastal waters and connecting waterways in New York as Vessel Waste No-Discharge Zones. In 2010, DEC announced that it had set a goal of 2012 to establish No-Discharge Zones for all waterbodies and waterways in the state. The Lake Ontario petition is part of DEC's continuing effort to meet that goal. Approval would extend protection to 326 miles of Great Lakes shoreline from Youngstown in the west to Cape Vincent in the east.
Upon concurrence by EPA, an opportunity for public comment would be announced later this summer in the Federal Register. When that concludes, EPA will address comments and determination if there are an adequate number of vessel pump-out stations to support the No-Discharge Zone. If EPA concurs, the No-Discharge Zone would be enforced by DEC law enforcement, State Police and local authorities.