Pump, don't dump

Puget Sound No Discharge Zone has been signed into law!

After years of hard work and study, Puget Sound is joining other iconic waterways across the United States as a No Discharge Zone. San Diego Bay, Long Island Sound, all state waters of Massachusetts, Michigan, and Rhode Island – over 90 in total – have No Discharge Zones.

The Puget Sound No Discharge Zone will prohibit the discharge of raw or partially treated sewage from boats in waterways east of Port Angeles, and will include the sensitive marine waters from the San Juan Islands to Shelton, important shellfish harvesting areas, in addition to Lake Washington and Lake Union. This protection would require all vessels with a permanently installed toilet, or “head,” to collect sewage in a holding tank then pump out for proper treatment. (Grey water, such as water from sinks or showers, can still be released.)


A No Discharge Zone will protect public health and Puget Sound.

Raw or partially-treated boat sewage contains highly concentrated and dangerous bacteria and other microorganisms that can contaminate shellfish beds and lead to severe illness. Every year recreational and commercial shellfish beds have to be closed due to pollution or even proximity to moorage areas. These closures impact people and businesses that rely on clean water. Even onboard systems that partially treat sewage before discharging do not adequately kill off the microorganisms that make people sick.

Pumpout stations serve all of Puget Sound.

Over 100 pumpout facilities are available all over Puget Sound (www.pumpoutwashington.org), and already serve marine vessel sewage needs. In addition, mobile trucks, pumpout boats, and barges even meet ships and large vessels on the water, and these companies serve the entire Puget Sound. In 2016, over 10 million gallons were pumped out and diverted from Puget Sound. We can do even better.

Most vessels already comply with this protection.

Fortunately, over 97% of boaters already do the right thing – they have holding tanks onboard to store sewage (also called blackwater), then pump it out using shoreside stations at state parks, marinas, or docks. Several businesses voluntarily store and pump out sewage as a company policy. In recent years, the cruise ship industry voluntarily adopted policies that they would not dump even treated sewage in Puget Sound.

But not all boats currently dispose of their waste in this way. Some boats are designed for offshore passage and have systems that can dump untreated sewage directly into Puget Sound. Others have marine sanitation devices onboard with rudimentary treatment that does not protect human health with modern technology. These systems may fall into disrepair, weakening their effectiveness over time.