Puget Sound would no longer be a toilet for vessels dumping raw or partially treated sewage overboard under a regulation proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The new rule, five years in the making, would require any vessel with a permanent toilet aboard to store waste until it could be pumped out ashore, instead of dumping it overboard.
Vessel owners now may dump raw sewage in Puget Sound 3 miles from shore and dump partially treated sewage overboard — even at the dock.
The rule proposed by the EPA would create a no-discharge zone to keep sewage out of Puget Sound anywhere east of Port Angeles.
The EPA’s Region 10, which includes Oregon, Washington and Alaska, does not include any no-discharge zones, though they are common elsewhere in the country.
Sewage dumped at the surface of the water can be a heavy hit of bacterial pollution to shellfish harvest, swimmers and marine life.
“Almost everyone I talk with is surprised this isn’t already prohibited,” said Chris Wilke, executive director of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “If we are going to make progress on Puget Sound we need to stop treating it like a toilet. It is not a repository for our waste.”
The no-discharge zone would include all marine waters in and around Seattle, as well as the fresh waters of Lake Washington, Union Bay, Montlake Cut, Portage Bay, Lake Union, Fremont Cut and the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
The EPA is accepting comments on the rule until Dec. 7. To learn more or to comment, go to http://tinyurl.com/q6q2pgm.