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post #1 of 6 Old 08-20-2009 Thread Starter
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Plumbing for Greywater in Great Lakes

I'm building a 28' Sailboat and just got transferred to Michigan. The boat will now be used on Lake Michigan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tells me that there is no discharge of any type allowed. Does everyone plumb all the greywater to holding tanks for pumpout? Seems like a large tank and frequent pumpouts would be a problem. Are diverter valves allowed for sinks to drain to seacocks in the event that the boat is taken to waters where the discharge of greywater is permitted? I'm not familiar with the regulations and state officials haven't been very helpful.
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Originally Posted by jimmandit View Post
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tells me that there is no discharge of any type allowed. Does everyone plumb all the greywater to holding tanks for pumpout?
I think they are referring to Black Water only.
Grey water on Lake Michigan is acceptable.
Our sinks and shower drain directly overboard.
There are a couple of remote areas on the Great Lakes that Grey Water must be contained. Isle Royal National Park on Lake Superior is the one that I know of.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmandit View Post
I'm building a 28' Sailboat and just got transferred to Michigan. The boat will now be used on Lake Michigan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tells me that there is no discharge of any type allowed. Does everyone plumb all the greywater to holding tanks for pumpout? Seems like a large tank and frequent pumpouts would be a problem. Are diverter valves allowed for sinks to drain to seacocks in the event that the boat is taken to waters where the discharge of greywater is permitted? I'm not familiar with the regulations and state officials haven't been very helpful.
I would ask DEQ again, because I wasn't aware of mandatory grey water retention. You might want to try EPA instead. On the Ontario side of the Great Lakes, sink and shower drains (grey water) can directly discharge. Heads have to be pumped into a holding tank, and "Y" valves that would allow the option of pumping into a holding tank or discharging directly overboard are illegal.
Considering the fact that freighters are allowed to hose down their decks directly into the Great Lakes, and cruise ships can discharge insane amounts of grey water (if otherwise, please let me know), I'd be surprised if any states bordering the Great Lakes has grey water retention regs.

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I think they are referring to Black Water only.
Grey water on Lake Michigan is acceptable.
Our sinks and shower drain directly overboard.
There are a couple of remote areas on the Great Lakes that Grey Water must be contained. Isle Royal National Park on Lake Superior is the one that I know of.
Good point about Isle Royale. I checked the Boating Guide for the park. Its perimeter extends 4.5 miles offshore. The guide says "Federal regulations
prohibit the discharge of any waste, including gray water, into park waters." I believe the park ranger there even pioneered a reg that forbids freighters discharging ballast water within the park perimeter. It's a national park, and I don't know if Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has anything similar.
There have been experiments with grey water treatment systems (including hydrogen peroxide) but so far nothing's come of them that I know.

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Thanks for the info. It seemed crazy what DEQ told me. When I finally get to Isle Rolyale I'll worry about that.
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It's not clear to me how Isle Royale is preventing gray water discharge (not that I'm advocating it at the park). Apparently a system-wide reg was considered by NPS in 2003, but it backed off for a variety of reasons. The main ones were that the USCG does not consider gray water a contaminant under the Clean Water Act, boats aren't set up with separate holding tanks, USCG doesn't certify gray water holding tanks, and control of gray water discharge should be "site specific." Isle Royale seems to be leaning on the Clean Water Act for its "federal regulation" justification, but the CWA talks about controlling discharge of oil and other hazardous materials in bilge water. It does talk about gray water, but it seems to be up to USCG to apply the CWA to boating.
California Water Resources Board encourages boaters and marinas to retain and discharge gray water, but I don't there's a law in that state. It says this on the subject:

"USCG defines gray water as drainage from dishwasher, shower, laundry, bath, and washbasin drains. It does not include drainage from toilets, urinals, hospitals and cargo spaces. Gray water is NOT sewage and may be discharged overboard without passage through an MSD or a holding tank. In fact, draining galley wastes into the MSD is not recommended, because food waste is much more difficult to decompose than the human sewage which the marine sanitation device is intended to handle. If retained, gray water must be included in a separate waste retention capacity for the vessel (source: Coast Guard Regulations, 33 CFR 151.05)."

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