ANNAPOLIS, MD (March 8, 2002) -- Improved water quality and further protection of two sensitive waterways will be among the benefits of Maryland designating its first No Discharge Zones (NDZs) in the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland’s coastal bays. NDZs are areas of water that prohibit boaters from dumping treated or untreated sewage. Under the federal Clean Water Act, states may apply to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the special designation.
Through a joint effort between the state Departments of the Environment (MDE) and Natural Resources (DNR), Maryland was able to successfully petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for two NDZs. Pending public review, newly designated NDZs will be established during the 2002 boating season in Herring Bay (in southern Anne Arundel County) and the northern coastal bays in Worcester County (Assawoman and Isle of Wight Bays; and from the Ocean City Inlet north to the Delaware state line).
“Designation of these areas puts Maryland ahead of schedule in meeting the NDZ goal included in the 2000 Chesapeake Bay Agreement, which doesn’t call for these designations until 2003,” said MDE Secretary Jane T. Nishida.
The action also addresses the NDZ recommendation included in the 1999 Comprehensive Management and Conservation Plan for the Maryland Coastal Bays. “Clean water is the very lifeblood of both Ocean City and Worcester County,” said Dave Blazer, executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. “The no discharge zone designation for the northern Coastal Bays fits perfectly into our plans to address all sources of pollution in this area.”
Public hearings on regulatory changes to adopt the NDZs are scheduled for March 25 at the South County branch of the Anne Arundel County Public Library in Deale, and March 27 at Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin. Both hearings will begin at 7 p.m. Written comments will be accepted until April 9 and may be sent to:
Maryland Department of the Environment
2500 Broening Highway
Baltimore, MD 21224.
Boats operating within NDZs will be required to take special care in disposing of vessel sewage. Boats with holding tanks or portable toilets must use dockside pumpouts and/or disposal facilities. Boats equipped with a Type I or Type II Marine Sanitation Device — a treat and release system — will be required to either lock the door to the head or secure the seacock in a closed position. Treat and release systems cannot be operated within these zones. Violation of NDZ regulations could result in thousands of dollars in penalties.
Herring Bay and the northern coastal bays were chosen as Maryland's pilot NDZs largely because both met established criteria, exhibited strong local support and had additional efforts underway to improve water quality. The 1999 management plan for the Coastal Bays included a NDZ goal and the Lower Western Shore Tributary Team called for the Herring Bay designation several years ago.
Steuart Chaney, president of Herrington Harbour Marinas and a member of the tributary team explained.
“The boaters and maritime community of Herring Bay are taking the lead in helping the environment by their support of the NDZ in Herring Bay,” he said. “We believe that this initiative will focus regulatory attention on the other, more significant sources of pollution. Ultimately, the NDZ will lead to a cleaner environment for all of Herring Bay.”
The new NDZs are expected to bring added benefits in the two designated areas and to reinforce the importance of handling vessel sewage responsibly in all Maryland waters.
Prince George’s County Senator Paul G. Pinsky was instrumental in laying the groundwork leading up to the NDZ designations. In 1999, he sponsored a bill that required DNR to complete an assessment of waterways that were sensitive to boat sewage and to determine which of these areas were adequately served by pumpout facilities.
“The no discharge zone designations will increase boater awareness that certain areas of water are sensitive to all sources of pollution, including boat waste,” Pinsky said. “The vast majority of boaters are environmentally conscious and will be more than happy to comply.”