Working with Boaters and Marine Trades for Cleaner Washington Water

Public Comment Period Open for Puget Sound No Discharge Zone!

As issues come to the forefront, the idea of whether or not to create a No Discharge Zone in Puget Sound continues to percolate. Department of Ecology has reached out to many of the stakeholders (Clean Boating Foundation, Clean Marina, WA Boating Alliance) but when it comes to meaningful boater engagement, I’d give the group a “Needs Improvement”. Specifically, DOE is in the middle of their comment period. Unless I’ve missed an email, there’s not been a notification to the various groups that we all have a chance to weigh in officially. That begs the question: If a public comment exists, but no one knows about it, is it a public comment period?

You might be thinking that Clean Boating Foundation would have to be in favor of a No Discharge Zone. How could they not? You should know that the CBF board has not officially taken a position one way or the other. As for some background, there are 82 No Discharge Zones in the United States, but zero in Washington state. Actually, that’s half-true. Boaters are not permitted to discharge black water, but if they look to release treated sewage (from what’s called Type I and Type II Marine Sanitation Devices) they currently are allowed to. From my desk, I’m excited that the market is addressing pollutants coming off of boats. That’s the backbone of CBF. We love voluntary, market-based approaches to saving Puget Sound. NDZ takes a different approach. It’s a ban on Type I, II and III (holding tanks).

It’s important for boaters to know that a No Discharge Zone is not set up to regulate grey water. Also, Department of Ecology has been very accessible when boaters (via the WA Boating Alliance) have reached out to them for further clarification. What’s been lacking has been the data that demonstrate the impact boaters using Type I and II devices have on Puget Sound. Before we can support it one way or the other, we’d like to know some basics: What’s the problem? What’s the extent of the problem? What role are boaters playing with “the problem”? Sure, there are other questions, but I’m hoping that these answers are both easy to find and will inform the rest of the conversation.

For more information on No Discharge Zones:

Department of Ecology’s site:

Info on the company that produces these Type I and Type II devices: