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EPA Seeks Public Comment on Proposal to Ban Boat Sewage in South Shore Estuary Reserve

Release Date: 07/08/2009
Contact Information: Sophia Kelley (212) 637-3670,

(New York, N.Y.) Taking action that will improve water quality and protect wildlife and natural resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given its preliminary approval to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) proposal to prohibit vessel waste discharges in the South Shore Estuary Reserve. EPA is asking the public to comment on the plan.

“This proposal would help protect water quality, marine life, and ecosystems along the entire south shore of Long Island,” said George Pavlou, Acting EPA Regional Administrator. “The South Shore Estuary Reserve includes one of New York State’s most diverse estuaries. Establishing a No Discharge Zone is an essential step toward preserving this valuable and beautiful habitat.”

The South Shore Estuary Reserve includes more than 110,000 acres of open water and intertidal areas from East Rockaway Inlet to Shinnecock Bay. Extending from the Queens/Nassau County line east to the Village of Southampton in Suffolk County, the reserve encompasses the homes of 1.5 million people. Under national marine sanitation standards, vessels operating in the reserve are permitted to discharge treated sewage from approved marine sanitation devices. Establishing a No Discharge Zone will require vessels to discharge all sewage, treated or not, only at equipped pump-out facilities. The relatively calm waters of the South Shore Estuary support many commercial and recreational activities including boating, fishing and tourism. Boat sewage discharge increases levels of potentially harmful coliform bacteria and chemicals in treated sewage, such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine effect water quality and harm wildlife habitat.

EPA has reviewed the petition prepared by the Peconic Baykeeper and along with DEC tentatively determined that it meets the criterion established by the Clean Vessel Act for establishing a No Discharge Zone. EPA has identified sufficient numbers of pump-out facilities for the safe and sanitary removal of sewage in the area. The Clean Vessel Act stipulates the adequate number of pump-outs per vessel population as one pump-out per 300 – 600 vessels. Taking into account all reasonably accessible pump-outs in the vicinity, EPA has found that the areas of the reserve meet or exceed this criterion.

The public comment period will begin July 6, 2009 and extend for 30 days. EPA will review and respond to any comments received. If no substantive issues are raised, a final affirmative determination will be made. Written comments must be postmarked no later than August 5, 2009 and should be addressed to: Jeffrey F. Gratz, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, Clean Water Regulatory Branch, 290 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, New York, 10007-1866. Telephone: (212) 637-3873.

For more information about No Discharge Zones, visit

For a Google Earth aerial view of the South Shore Estuary, go to: (You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit