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Release Date: 08/11/1998
Contact Information: Leo Kay, EPA Press Office (617/918-4154) Lisa Pelosi, Governor's Press Office (401/222-2080)

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. - EPA-New England Administrator John P. DeVillars today approved Rhode Island's request to designate all marine waters in the state as a "No-Discharge" area where sewage discharges from boats are illegal.

The federal designation is the first No-Discharge designation in the country for an entire state's coastal waters. Effective immediately, the designation means that there is a complete prohibition on boat waste discharges into Rhode Island coastal waters, including all of Narragansett Bay and all marine waters within three miles of the state's coastline.V

"This No-Discharge designation is truly historic," said DeVillars, at a news conference today at the East Greenwich Yacht Club. "Rhode Island deserves a lot of credit for going the extra mile to protect its coastal waters and for raising the bar on environmental protection for the rest of the country. We hope to soon see many other coastal states around the country following Rhode Island's lead."

"We're very proud that Rhode Island is the first state in the nation to have a No Discharge designation for all of our coastal waters," said Governor Lincoln Almond. "That's testimony to my administration's commitment to protecting our environment. I know that this designation we are announcing today will go a long way in enabling us to maintain the pristine conditions of our waters. Without question, Rhode Island is charting the course for the rest of the nation to follow."

"We recognize that there are a range of pollution sources into the bay, and we must continue to address all of those sources on a comprehensive basis. This action being taken today serves as an effective means toward achieving overall water quality improvements all over the state, particularly in shallow embayments such as Greenwich Bay," said Andrew H. McLeod, director of the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, which spearheaded the state's No-Discharge effort. "This designation will also boost tourism as well as the state's multi-million-dollar shellfishing industry."

The designation culminates a six-year effort by DEM to curb boater waste discharges by boosting the availability of pumpout facilities where boaters can empty their holding tanks. The number of pumpout facilities in Rhode Island has jumped eight-fold since 1990, from five to 43. An additional six facilities are scheduled to begin operating in the next year, if not sooner.

In order to qualify for the designation, Rhode Island has to show it has an ample number of pumpout stations to service the state's 31,600 registered boats and the estimated 20,000 transient boats that visit from out-of-state.

"DEM, the marina owners and the yacht club owners have worked together wonderfully to get these pumpout facilities installed in all corners of the state," said DeVillars, who singled out the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association for their leadership. "The ratio of pumpout stations to boats in Rhode Island is higher than in any coastal state in the country."

DeVillars praised the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing $520,000 of federal money to help nearly three-dozen marinas pay for installing pumpout stations. The money, known as Clean Vessel Act grants, covered 75 percent of the marinas' installation costs. Recipients of the grants are not allowed to charge more than $5 for each pumpout.

DeVillars said No-Discharge designations have proven to be very effective elsewhere in New England. Block Island received approval for a no-discharge designation several years ago and since then water quality has improved dramatically - to the extent that 200 acres of the Great Salt Pond was re-opened to shellfishing during the summer months. "Block Island is a classic example of how this program can work," DeVillars said.

DeVillars took issue with some in the boating community who have questioned whether a No-Discharge designation makes sense for larger embayments such as Narragansett Bay and whether it places an unfair burden on boat owners who would no longer be able to use their Type 1 and Type 2 Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) in state waters.

Type 1 and Type 2 MSDs provide minimal or moderate treatment of sewage waste before the waste material is discharged into the water.

"Vessel sewage receives far better treatment by being pumped ashore to a sewage treatment plant than it does from an MSD onboard a vessel," DeVillars said. "As for the burden on the small percentage of boat owners with these MSDs, a trip to a boating store for a portable toilet for under $100 will solve their problem. I don't believe that's too much to ask considering the stakes -- clean water."

DeVillars said the EPA and DEM will team up on an aggressive education campaign over the next two years to educate boat owners about the availability of pumpout facilities and the positive benefits of using them.