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Boaters - Please Don't Use VA Waterways as a Bathroom

June 27, 2011

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Boaters dump human waste into some waterways in Virginia and as a result are contributing to the contamination of shellfish and water. That's why the General Assembly has asked the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to address the problem.

DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden says the agency is asking the federal government to designate certain areas in Virginia as "no-discharge" zones, which would ultimately prohibit recreational vessels from releasing sewage, whether treated or not, into the water.

"The thinking always in the past had been that because the waterways are so vast, whatever pollution goes into them would be diluted and would dissipate that way. We're finding though that even relatively small amounts of pollution can have larger impacts, and that's why we're trying to control it."

Hayden says there are alternatives to dumping toilet waste from boats into waterways.

"A lot of marinas are setting up pump-out stations where you can pump out the contents of the marine sanitation device on your boat; rather than just dumping it in the water, you pump it out and it gets treated from there."

Chris Moore of Hampton Roads, a scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says boats generally have one of three types of marine sanitation devices, or MSDs, that are used to treat sewage before releasing it.

"In general, I think that no matter what type of MSD you have on-board, it's better for the bay's health and for the protection of our shellfish to use a pump-out system to make sure that waste is treated in the way that is most protective of bay water quality and our shellfish industry here in Virginia."

The DEQ is seeking no-discharge zones for Richmond, Lancaster, Northumberland and Westmoreland counties. They are seeking public comments before proposals are sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in July.

More information is at

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA