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EPA and New York State Announce Ban on Boat Sewage Disposal to New York Canal System

Release Date: 05/27/2010
Contact Information: John Senn, (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that the entire New York State Canal System is now a “no discharge zone,” which means that boats are banned from discharging sewage into the canals. Boaters must instead dispose of their sewage at specially designated pump-out stations. EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck and DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis were joined by New York State Canal Corporation Director Carmella R. Mantello and Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) President and CEO Matthew J. Driscoll along the canal to mark the boat sewage discharge ban, and to announce a new, comprehensive strategy to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into any of the state’s waterways.

Discharges of sewage from boats can contain harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols, and chlorine, which have a negative impact on water quality, pose a risk to people’s health, and impair marine life.

“Pumping sewage from boats into local waters is a practice that is both harmful and completely unnecessary,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Boaters should access facilities into which they can pump their waste, and we can move toward eliminating this source of pollution in New York’s waterways once and for all.”

“Clean water is one of New York’s most important assets,” Enck added. “It is disturbing, in this day and age, to have boaters discharging sewage into our treasured waterways. Today’s announcement is an important step toward cleaner water.”

"This will have an important and immediate impact, making the water cleaner, making recreation on the Erie Canal more enjoyable and restoring habitat for fish and other aquatic life," Commissioner Grannis said. "By acting today, we are providing benefits for generations to come."

New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Matthew Driscoll said: "This effort will help to protect, preserve and enhance the water quality in our Canal system statewide and ensure that this water way continues to play an important role in the communities in which it serves and for all New Yorkers in the years to come."

Canal Corporation Director Carmella R. Mantello said, "The Canal Corporation is pleased to join with our environmental partners to announce the designation of the Canal System as a No Discharge Zone. The Canal System offers various recreational opportunities to tourists and residents alike and is a vital economic resource to the hundreds of quaint communities lining the 524-mile waterway. The No Discharge Zone designation will go a long way toward protecting and preserving this national treasure to ensure its vitality for future generations to enjoy."

The New York State Canal System declared a “no discharge zone” today is 524 miles long and includes the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain and Oswego canals. These four canals link the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River. Prior to today’s ban, vessels operating in these waters were allowed to discharge treated sewage from approved marine sanitation devices.

There are many waterways throughout New York State that support recreational boating. In addition to the New York State Canal System, twelve additional waterways have already been designated as “no discharge zones,” including South Shore Estuary, Lake George, Lake Champlain, areas of the Hudson River from which drinking water is drawn, Mamaroneck Harbor, East Hampton, Huntington-Northport Bay Complex, Port Jefferson Harbor Complex, Hempstead Harbor, Peconic Estuary, the Hudson River Estuary, and Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor. Additionally, the Clean Water Act prohibits boat sewage discharges in freshwater lakes, reservoirs and impoundments whose entrance and exit points are too shallow to allow vessels to enter or leave.

To protect the waters that are not already covered, EPA, DEC, and EFC are collaborating on a comprehensive strategy that will result in a ban on sewage discharges from boats throughout New York State. It will increase the number of sewage pump-out facilities available to the boating public, which are required in adequate number before “no discharge zones” can be established.

EFC is responsible for identifying areas in need of pump-out facilities, and manages a grant program that provides funding for their construction, upgrade and maintenance.

For more information about no discharge zones, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/water/ndz/index.html.

To view a map of the New York State Canal System, visit New York State Canal Corp.’s Web site http://www.nyscanals.gov/maps/index.html.

For a Google Earth aerial view of the New York State Canal System, visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/kml/nys_canal_system_ndz.kmz (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html.)

EPA is also working to reduce the amount of sewage that gets into our waters from wastewater treatment plants and infrastructure, as well as from stormwater. Last year, EPA provided more than $436 million to New York State to make improvements to waste water treatment across the state. Today’s announcement continues EPA’s commitment to keeping sewage out of New York’s waterways.

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