Governor Deval Patrick today 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 Governor 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.
"I am proud to be a part of today's historic announcement that all state waters surrounding the Commonwealth have been designated as a No Discharge Area," said Congressman William Keating. "This approval marks the result of years of collaboration between federal, state, and local partners to reach full compliance with no discharge requirements and is a critical step forward in our collective effort to preserve our coastal waters and communities. Through forward-thinking investments, including in new dockside and vessel infrastructure and facilities, we have reached this goal together."
"EPA extends its sincere congratulations and appreciation to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as we celebrate our efforts to improve water quality and protect our coastal waters and communities," said Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England office. "We have achieved this accomplishment because of the commitment and hard work by state, local and federal governments, along with many citizens and organizations who have made their voices heard. By protecting all Massachusetts coastal waters from boat sewage, we now have uniform protection for these precious environments all the way from Long Island Sound up to areas in Maine."
"A clean and healthy coast is vitally important to the economy and quality of life in Massachusetts," said EEA Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett. "With this designation, our coastal waters are now fully protected from boat sewage discharge, providing clean resources for tourism and recreational activities like swimming and fishing, as well as improving habitat for marine life."
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.
"This announcement is great news for the health of the Commonwealth's coastal areas," said Senator Marc R. Pacheco. "I applaud the Patrick Administration for prioritizing the protection of our coastal waters by preventing the release of sewage on Massachusetts coasts and by promoting clean vessel operations in the Commonwealth."
"Fishing and tourism are vital components to the economic success of Massachusetts," said Representative Tom Calter. "Designating the Commonwealth's coast as a No Discharge Area is a critical safeguard needed to help protect sensitive habitats, public health and valuable recreational and economic resources."
"I am happy that we are in the final stages of creating a statewide No Discharge Area, as Plymouth was one of the first coastal areas to become a no discharge zone," said Representative Vinny deMacedo. "The inclusion of the final no discharge zones is a small step that will make a huge difference in the amount of harmful microorganisms released into our waters. We are now on our way to significantly improving our water quality, ecological habitats, and the aesthetics of the Commonwealth's beautiful coast."
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.
"Massachusetts has worked hand-in-hand with our cities and towns, harbormasters, environmental groups, marinas and others, while also working closely with EPA to ensure a smooth approval process," said Bruce Carlisle, CZM Director. "I would like to thank everyone who has helped make this statewide ban on boat sewage discharge a reality. It has been a privilege working with so many people who are committed to keeping our coastal waters clean."
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.
Prohibiting the discharge of boat sewage is one more step toward addressing pollution issues that degrade coastal waters. 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. This work complements the ongoing comprehensive Wastewater Management Planning being done by communities across Cape Cod and the $3.35 million investment the Commonwealth has made to regional water quality management planning by the Cape Cod Commission. In addition, millions of dollars in grants have been distributed by the Department of Environmental Protection under Clean Water Act grants to prevent water pollution.