- Report Published -
|Feasibility of Establishing Sewage No-Discharge Zones for Boats|
|Department of Health|
|HJR 448 (1995)|
|House Joint Resolution 448 chares the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to:|
1) study the effect of boat discharges on the waters of the Commonwealth; 2) determine the ability of the Commonwealth to meet current United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards for establishment of No Discharge Zones (NDZ); 3. examine data regarding the extent of pollution loading and the sensitivity of affected waters with particular attention to the existence of productive or potentially productive shellfish areas, and the availability of operational pump-out facilities; 4) evaluate compliance with existing regulations; and 5) examine the feasibility of requesting additional federal monies through the Clean Vessel Act (CVA). Each of the charges is addressed below.
Study the Effect of Boat Discharges on the Waters of the Commonwealth
The discharge of boat sewage, whether treated or not is a substantial threat to the health and water quality of the Commonwealth's waters. Boat sewage possesses many characteristics unique to the boating community, the most important of which is that this sewage is very concentrated. Holding tank waste ranges from 15 to 100 times higher in organic load than does typical domestic sewage and this strength represents a significant threat to water quality. This concentrated boat sewage characteristic is significant because of the tremendous amount of water necessary to dilute these pollutant discharges down to levels that pose no risk to public health or will not violate water quality standards. With multiple raw sewage discharges, particularly in one specific area, the dilution rate becomes extremely slow and ineffective, and a great threat to water quality and human health exists. In addition, the level of sewage treatment provided by recreational boat Marine Sanitation Devices (MSD) is much inferior to the level of sewage treatment provided by on-shore sewage treatment works as Type I and Type III MSD's are typically installed on such boats, due to an existing federal waiver. Thus, the potential amount and strength of sewage discharged in places where these boats congregate can have a significant impact on water quality.
Determine the Ability of the Commonwealth to Meet Current USEPA Standards for Establishment of No Discharge Zones
Based on the USEPA publication entitled "Protecting Coastal Waters from Vessel and Marina Discharges: A Guide for State and Local Officials..." the Division of Wastewater Engineering (DWE) determined the number of required pump-out facilities and dump stations in the river basins that are affected by shellfish seasonal condemnations. The USEPA guidelines indicate that the number of existing facilities located at marina establishments in these four river basins should meet or exceed USEPA guidelines for suggested numbers of pump-out facilities and dump stations. However, these guidelines do not include specific criteria to evaluate availability. Previous communications with USEPA staff indicated that designation of NDZs could be approved for reasonable travel distances around existing pump and dump station facilities considered to be available in accordance with the VDH Sanitary Regulations for Marinas and Boat Moorings. A reasonable travel distance, or time of travel, has been established as three miles, or thirty minutes travel time.
Examine Data Regarding the Extent of Pollution Loading and the Sensitivity of Affected Waters with Particular Attention to the Existence of Productive or Potentially Productive Shellfish Areas, and the Availability of Operational Pump-Out Facilities
Currently, there are a total of 2,681 acres of seasonally condemned shellfish areas that surround 155 marina and other places where boats are moored (OPWBAM) in Virginia. Seasonally condemned areas are areas that are condemned solely due to boating activity in accordance with the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program as implemented by VDH. These areas are established by using an analytical time-transit dispersion model designed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) for use by the VDH staff. In order to study the potential impact of the declaration of NDZs on the size of seasonally condemned shellfish growing areas on a year round basis; analytical model predictions were developed. The results obtained from these analyses suggest that there is no relationship between marina locations and the size of seasonally condemned productive or potentially productive shellfish grounds. The lack of correlation is primarily the result of the location of current shellfish harvesting areas which are not located in the same general vicinity of marinas and other places where boats congregate.
Evaluate Compliance with Existing Regulations
VDH estimates that approximately 65% of regulated marina facilities are in compliance with the 1990 VDH Sanitary Regulations for Marinas and Boat Moorings. While this number is numerically sufficient for NDZ concerns, the locations of these pump-outs do not currently provide enough coverage for all boats to safely and conveniently dispose of their sewage. VDH has determined through annual inspections, that these pump-out installations are sufficient for NDZ designation around the boat mooring facilities for a reasonable travel distance of three miles.
Examine the Feasibility of Requesting Additional Federal Monies through the Clean Vessel Act (CVA).
VDH estimates that complete overall compliance with the marina regulations for pump-out facilities at marinas and OPWBAMs, with strategic placement, would require installation of nearly 200 additional pump-out stations and dump stations which could almost double the area of service available to boaters for use of on-shore sewage receiving facilities. While this is currently only a goal, CVA grant funds available to marina owners and operators could make this an achievable goal. The State requests for CVA grant funds will provide for sufficient sewage receiving equipment to serve approximately three-quarters of a million acres of State coastal waters. Thus this total area of State waters could then be eligible for NDZ designation. CVA funding in Virginia has increased from $122,663 in 1993/94 to $163,300 in 1995, and VDH has requested an additional $813,750 for 1996. CVA grants at the federal levels are funded through 1997 and VDH feels confident i its ability to obtain these grants along with the successful distribution of them for new/renovated sewage handling facilities, maintenance of those facilities and educational programs.