Plan would ban boats from releasing sewage into Puget Sound – Seattle Times

This proposal has been in the discussion phase for a couple of years now. We discussed it in the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee back in 2014 I believe. It was clear then, and is clear now, that if they are going to do this, it should be in more than one stage, with exemptions for working commercial vessels that cannot retrofit for the new rules.  I have to say that I agree with the critics that are quoted in the story. What those of us involved with the preliminary rules found back then, was that a number of tug boats, have never had an ability to have a holding tank, because they were built in an era where it wasn’t required, and they filled the hold with engine. There is no way to retrofit some of these working boats. As you can see from the reaction of commercial interests in this article, the issue has not magically gone away. That Ms. Bellon has chosen to ignore this feedback and simply given them 5 years to comply or have to buy a new tug is not going to solve the problem. It leads to the kind of anger against agencies like DOE, run under this Democratic governor. It can be fuel for the fire of the Republicans which is not needed in this election year. Ms. Bellon needs to come to the table with an exemption status for the small number of commercial vessels, perhaps establishing a 20 year exemption, what would allow the natural cycle of vessel replacement to happen.The small amount of treated human waste from these commercial vessels pale in comparison with the fecal runoff of the roads, which carries away pet waste by the ton every time it rains. I don’t see DOE getting all upset and banning cities from expanding until they fix their storm sewer systems. We know that it would not be politically acceptable. I highly recommend that if you are involved in any kind of organization or NGO that is involved in Puget Sound protection, that you write Ms Bellon, and call your legislators, and tell them and her that we need to have the commercial interests on board with this proposal before inacting it. As to the recreational boaters, getting them  to go to pump out stations is a good idea, but DOE better fund an expansion of those stations. There are not enough around the Sound.

Boaters and vessel operators would not be able to release sewage, treated or untreated, into Puget Sound under a proposal by Washington state regulators. The Department of Ecology said Thursday it and other state agencies petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate the waters of Puget Sound a “no discharge zone” to improve water quality and protect shellfish beds and swimming beaches from harmful bacteria. If approved, the zone would cover waters from near Sequim to south Puget Sound to the Canadian border, and includes Lake Washington and Lake Union. There are dozens of no-discharge zones in the country, but this would be the first in the Pacific Northwest. Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)

2 Responses

  1. Al – I have a different perspective on the proposed No Discharge Zone. First, as the new People For Puget Sound director at the Washington Environmental Council, I support common- sense protection of Puget Sound. We would not allow even a few septic pump trucks to dribble out their sewage and wastes driving down the highway, so why would it be ok for boats in Puget Sound?

    Ecology spent four years negotiating with people representing the tugboats. Ecology went way beyond anything done in any other No Discharge Petition, and there are over 90 already in place around the country. Why not Puget Sound?

    To be clear, I was previously part of the science team at Ecology, where I was surprised at how connected our waters are, based on highly sophisticated computer models of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.

    In one of the meetings with the tugboat representatives who was arguing for several smaller no discharge zones, which would be difficult to enforce, I asked how he thought the boundaries should be determined. His response was “maybe a half mile, you know, something arbitrary.”

    The No Discharge Zone for Puget Sound is not arbitrary. The background materials describe the extensive development of sufficient pumpout capacity and the care taken in its proposal, including an economic evaluation.

    We all need to do our part, and this just makes sense.


    • Mindy, I am not advocating for arbitrary boundaries. The boundaries can be put in as Ecology mandates, but it’s the notion of exemptions for commercial working vessels that have no option other than retirement of the vessel. If I am not understanding the issue, then please clarify. It is all to often seen as environmentalists vs. industry, and if this is a real issue, i.e. retrofitting of tugs vs replacement of them, then we should look to take this as an exemption over perhaps the working life of the tug, or some reasonable timeframe, like 10 or 20 years. The Sound has been and continues to suffer from a thousand cuts, we would make a large impact by doing 98% of this now and the other 2% soon. We want and need to keep industry on our side, when possible. If this is not possible, then please explain why.

      By the way, which of our State Reps and Senators are backing this? Is Kevin Ranker onboard as it is written? What about Kevin Van de Wege and Steve Tharinger? And others.

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