U.S. Department of Transportation, United States Coast Guard
Consumer Fact sheet #13
One of a series of fact sheets published by:
U.S. Coast Guard office of Navigation Safety and Waterway Services
Washington, DC 20593-0001
MARINE SANITATION DEVICES ON RECREATIONAL BOATS
Recreational boats are not required to be equipped with a toilet. However, the Clean Water Act requires that if a toilet is installed, it must be equipped with an operable Marine Sanitation Device (MSD) that is certified by the Coast Guard. Installed toilets that are not equipped with an MSD, and that discharge raw sewage directly over the side, are illegal. Portable toilets or "porta-potties" are not considered installed toilets and are not subject to the MSD regulations. But they are subject to disposal regulations which prohibit the disposal of raw sewage within territorial waters (3 mile limit), the Great Lakes, or navigable rivers
Vessels 65 feet In length and under may install a Type I, II, or III Marine Sanitation Device. Vessels over 65 feet in length must install a Type II or III MSD.
TYPE I This device is certified to treat the sewage with disinfectant chemicals, and by other means, before it Is discharged into the water. The treated discharge must meet certain health standards for bacteria content and must not show any visible floating solids.
TYPE II This MSD is also a treatment device, but it is certified to provide a higher level of sewage treatment. Because it is larger in size than a Type 1, and generally has higher power requirements, it Is usually installed only in larger recreational boats.
TYPE III This MSD does not allow the discharge of sewage. Type III category devices include recirculating and incinerating MSDs and holding tanks. Holding tanks are probably the most common kind of Type III MSD used on recreational boats. Sewage is stored in the holding tank until it can be pumped out to a reception facility on shore, or at sea beyond the territorial waters of the United States.
RECEPTION FACILITIES AND DECK FITTINGS
Reception facilities (sometimes called pumpout stations) are not required by Coast Guard regulations. Their availability at marinas or other locations is largely a function of local boater demand. Most cruising guides and boating almanacs list the availability of pumpout stations. However, because of the growing number of No Discharge Zones (see below) and the increasing number of boaters, the Federal Government and the States are encouraging, and assisting with funding, the installation of more pumpout stations along U.S. waterways.
They are also turning their attention to a requirement for standardized MSD pumpout fittings that will make it possible for all vessels to easily use any pumpout station.
For the future -- The Clean Vessel Act of 1992 (Public Law 102- 587, Subtitle F) recommends the following: "For all vessels manufactured after December 31, 1994, a standard deck fitting for removal of sewage should be constructed to the "International standard ISO 4567 Shipbuilding - Yachts - Waste water fittings" for holding tanks, which is a female 38.1 mm (1 ="") pipe size with 11 threads per 25.4 mm (inch). These threads could utilize a quick-connect, or cam lock fitting. For existing vessels, an adapter, such as a tapered cone, should be used for non-standard deck fittings. All pumpout connectors should fit the standard deck fitting. For vessels manufactured after December 31, 1994, it has been recommended that, because of possible confusion between waste, fuel and water deck fittings, the deck fittings should be identified with the words 'WASTE', 'GAS', 'DIESEL', and 'WATER', and color coded. Fittings should be provided with black caps for waste, red caps for gas and diesel, and blue caps for water.'
In the meantime, because there are a variety of fitting sizes at various marinas, boaters should acquaint themselves with what, if any, fitting adapter they should have to enable discharge at any pumpout location.
Every manufacturer of Coast Guard certified treatment MSDs must affix a certification label on the MSD. The label will show the name of the manufacturer, the name and model number of the device, the month and year of manufacturer, the MSD type (i.e. Type 1, Type I, or Type 111), a certification number, and a certification statement. This is proof that the device has been tested to most the U.S. Coast Guard regulations for design and construction, and the Environmental Protection Agency regulations and standards as required by the Clean Water Act. Holding tanks (Type III MSDs) will not be labeled, They will be considered Coast Guard certified if they are used to store sewage and flushwater only and they operate at ambient (outside) air temperature and pressure. A holding tank must have enough reserve capacity to retain the wastes generated while the vessel is operating in waters where the discharge of raw sewage is prohibited. Isolating the overboard discharge piping from the head with a valve is not considered equivalent to providing a holding tank.
NO DISCHARGE ZONES
A boat can be equipped with any type of MSD permitted under the regulations. However, whenever a vessel equipped with a Type I or Type 11 MSD (these types discharge treated sewage) is operating in an area of water that has been declared a No Discharge Zone, the MSD cannot be used and must be secured to prevent discharge. No Discharge Zones are areas of water that require greater environmental protection and where even the discharge of treated sewage could be harmful. When operating in a No Discharge Zone, a Type I or Type II MSD must be secured in some way to prevent discharge. Closing the seacock and padlocking, using a non-releasable wire-tie, or removing the seacock handle would be sufficient. Locking the door to the head with a padlock or a door handle key lock is another acceptable method of securing the MSD while in a No Discharge Zone.
Generally, all freshwater lakes (and similar freshwater impoundments or reservoirs that have no navigable connections with other bodies of water), and rivers not capable of interstate vessel traffic, are by definition considered No Discharge Zones.
In addition, States may (with the specific approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) establish No Discharge Zones in other waters within the State. Currently, the following States have established such EPA-approved No Discharge Zones: California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico.- New York, Rhode island, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Others are planning to follow suit. Boaters should check with their State Boating Law authority for more specific information on the location and limits of No Discharge Zones. States are empowered to set and enforce further restrictions for pollution control in their own waters. You can locate your State Boating Law Administrator, by calling the toll-free Coast Guard Hotline -- 1-800-368-5647.
Note: currently listed No Discharge Zones, as named by the U.S. E.P.A. can be found at the following link:
DISCHARGE OF RAW SEWAGE
It is illegal to discharge raw sewage from a vessel in territorial waters (within the 3 mile limit), the Great Lakes, and navigable rivers. However, a valve may be installed on any MSD to provide for the direct discharge of raw sewage when the vessel is outside U.S. territorial waters. The valve must be secured in a closed position while operating in U.S. waters. As described under NO DISCHARGE ZONES, use of a padlock, non-releasable wire-tie, or the removal of the valve handle would be considered adequate securing of the device. The method chosen must be one that presents a physical barrier to the use of the valve.
NOTE: The boundaries of U.S. territorial waters are marked on some nautical charts. Changes to the boundaries are published in Coast Guard Local Notices to Mariners.
SPECIAL MSD RULES MAY AFFECT HOUSEBOATS
The Clean Water Act permits a State to enforce regulations regarding the design, manufacture, installation, and use of MSDs on Houseboats, even if such a regulation is more stringent than Federal standards. "Houseboat" is defined as a vessel which, for a period of time determined by the State in which the vessel is located, is used primarily as a residence and not primarily as a means of transportation. If you own or operate a boat that fits this definition, check with the State Boating Law Administrator for any special MSD requirements the State may have.
The Coast Guard is interested in all complaints about faulty MSDs. Such complaints should be addressed to: Commandant (G-MVI-3) U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters Washington, DC 20593-0001
Complaints should be specific In nature, describe in detail the problem encountered, and should also include the name of the device manufacturer, the certification number, the type of vessel the MSD is installed on, when it was installed, and what the maintenance schedule is for the MSD.
HOW TO REPORT AN ILLEGAL DISCHARGE
If you observe any boat not complying with these regulations regarding water pollution, report it to the nearest Coast Guard Marine Safety - Of f ice (MSO). To locate the MSO near you, call the toll free Coast Guard Hotline -- 1-800-368 5647.
Or you may report it to the National Response Center 1-800-424-8802 (In Washington, DC area call (202) 267-2675. )
FACT SHEET # 13 January 1994 Coast Guard Consumer Fact Sheets are not copyrighted, They way be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.