A proposal to seek designation of Puget Sound as a No Discharge Zone (NDZ) for sewage effluent from vessels (even effluent processed through a Coast Guard-approved Marine Sanitation Device) is under serious consideration. Such a designation will impact any vessel that currently discharges sewage effluent into the Puget Sound waters.
There will be an important informational meeting with the Washington State Department of Ecology regarding the establishment of the Puget Sound No-Discharge Zone at 10 AM on this coming Monday November 25, 2013 at the offices of the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners Association in Seattle.
If Washington State petitions for a No Discharge Zone and the U.S. EPA approves the petition, any vessel without a holding tank that has made an investment in Type II Coast Guard-approved marine sanitation devices will be affected. The vessel will probably have to be reconfigured to install a holding tank.
There is a serious question about the availability of shoreside pump-out facilities to accommodate commercial vessels in Puget Sound. Most pumpout facilities are coin-operated systems in recreational marinas like Roche Harbor and Shilshole Bay. In order for the NDZ to work, either the state or industry would need to undertake a substantial development project for this infrastructure. Another option is a mobile pump-out facility - like vacuum trucks or barges. In this case, it would be an additional ongoing operating cost to the vessel operator.
A representative of the State Department of Ecology expressed her belief that commercial passenger vessels operating in Puget Sound do not typically discharge sewage effluent. She believes that such vessels have sufficient holding tanks and places at which to pump out shoreside.
Please note that even though this meeting is at NPFVOA, all sectors of the maritime industry are invited. If a NDZ would affect operators of commercial passenger vessels in Puget Sound, they should be represented in person.