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EPA to Take Public Comment on Proposed Ban on Boat Sewage in Peconic Bay

Release Date: 03/26/2002
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(#02015) New York, New York -- In a move that will strengthen efforts to restore and protect the Peconic Bay Estuary, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to approve a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) plan to prohibit boats from discharging treated or untreated sewage into the bay. The proposed zone includes all of the waters of the Peconic Estuary system in Suffolk County, New York, west of a line drawn from Orient Point to Montauk Point. EPA and NYSDEC have determined that there are a sufficient number of pump-out facilities located in the area to receive sewage from vessels.

Sewage discharges from boats affect water quality and increase levels of coliform bacteria in the waters of the Peconic Estuary. A “no discharge area” was already established in 1998 in the Town of East Hampton for the enclosed harbors and creeks on the Peconic Estuary from the Sag Harbor Village line to Montauk Point. The existing no discharge area includes Northwest Creek, Accabonac Harbor, Three Mile Harbor, Napeague Harbor, Hog Creek and Lake Montauk.

The Peconic Estuary was accepted as one of the 28 estuaries in the National Estuary Program as an estuary of national significance in September 1992. The final Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Peconic was approved by EPA in late 2001. Establishing a system- wide vessel waste no discharge area is an action item in that plan. The boating public is just one of many groups of stakeholders that are being asked to make a greater effort to keep pollution out of the bays and ensure that the Peconic Estuary remains clean for future generations.

“The Peconic Bay is part of EPA’s national program to clean up and protect the country’s most important estuaries,” said Jane Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. This proposal will bring us closer to our goals for the Peconic. Boat sewage contributes to the overall degradation of marine habitats, the closure of shell fish beds and can even lead to health problems for swimmers. There are plenty of pump-out stations that boaters can use to dispose of their sewage and there’s no need to discharge sewage into the bay.”

“The Department of State is pleased to have been a partner with the East End communities, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Peconic BayKeeper, the Peconic Estuary Program and the recreational boating industry in the preparation and submission to the EPA of the no-discharge zone petition." said Secretary of State Randy A Daniels. “EPA's approval of a no discharge zone in the Peconic Estuary is another step forward in protecting the natural resources and economic vitality of this incredible ecosystem.”

“Under the leadership of Governor George Pataki, New York is focusing new resources and energy on protecting and restoring our state's most important water bodies, from the Hudson River to Long Island Sound," New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin Crotty said. " EPA's approval of our petition for a no discharge zone in the Peconic Estuary is a positive step that will build on our efforts to prevent pollution and ensure the future water quality of the Bay.”

In July 2001, NYSDEC, on behalf of Suffolk County towns and villages, asked EPA to establish a no discharge area that would include the open waters, harbors and creeks of the Peconic Bay Estuary. New York State Department of State's Division of Coastal Resources and the Peconic BayKeeper played a key role in putting the state’s proposal together. EPA’s proposed approval will be subject to public comment until April 6, 2002. Under national marine sanitation standards, vessels operating in the Peconic Estuary are currently prohibited from discharging untreated sewage, but are allowed to discharge treated sewage from approved marine sanitation devices. Once finalized, the no discharge area will prohibit the discharge of both treated and untreated vessel sewage.

EPA and NYSDEC have previously banned the discharge of treated boat sewage in the Port Jefferson Harbor Complex, Huntington Harbor and Lloyd Harbor and the greater Huntington- Northport Bay Complex, which includes Lower Huntington and Northport Bays, Centerport, Northport, Duck Island Harbors and Price Bend.

For copies of the proposal, call 212-637-3880. Comments should be submitted by April 6, 2002 to Walter E. Andrews, Chief, Water Programs Branch, 290 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, New York 10007.