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Southern Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Seek to Protect Coastal Water from Boat Pollution

Release Date: 05/04/2012
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – May 4, 2012) – EPA is considering a proposal to designate the coastal waters of Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds and the Islands as a “No Discharge Area.” If approved, discharges of treated and untreated boat sewage would be prohibited within the town boundaries of Chilmark, West Tisbury, Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Gosnold, Falmouth, Mashpee, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Chatham and Nantucket.

On behalf of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management (MA CZM) has petitioned EPA to approve the No Discharge designation, with the towns’ concurrence. EPA has in turn published the request in the Federal Register and will accept public comments on the proposal for 30 days, ending May 29, 2012.

“Protecting coastal water quality and our local environment is just good common sense.  This step helps protect the foundation of a vibrant local economy and healthy communities,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Especially in these areas where visitors spend their time and vacation budgets, and where active shellfisheries bolster local incomes, EPA applauds these communities for taking an important step to protect the environment.”

This proposed designation includes 143 bathing beaches, 26 miles of coastline and encompasses approximately 733 square mile of state waters. Along with a similar proposal to designate Mt. Hope Bay as a no discharge area, if approved these two areas will mean that all coastal waters in Massachusetts are protected from treated and untreated boat sewage.

Before EPA will endorse a No Discharge Area designation for any area, the applicant must demonstrate that there are enough “pumpout” facilities where boaters can get their sewage holding tanks pumped out. This particular area has an estimated 15,283 boats, of which 5, 075 may have a head or toilet on board.  Massachusetts has certified that there are 29 pumpout facilities within the proposed area available to the boating public. 

This designation has been under development for more than 5 years, due to the substantial issues in involved.  All parties sat down and worked through each issue.  Two years ago the “Island Queen” bought a pumpout boat to make sure they would be in compliance.  The Steamship Authority worked out a schedule for retrofitting their vessels and installing the pumpout facilities for their vessels. 

Many other areas in New England already have designated their coastal waters as No Discharge Areas, including:
•         All state marine waters of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. If the two currently pending requests are approved, all of Massachusetts coastal waters will be protected as well;
•         In Maine, Boothbay Harbor, Casco Bay, Kennebunk/Kennebunkport/Wells, Southern Mount Desert area and West Penobscot Bay (Camden/Rockport/Rockland).

More information:

- No Discharge Areas in New England (

- Review the proposal (

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