Responsible Boating


It is illegal to discharge raw sewage from a vessel anywhere in Maryland waters. Sewage from boats is a source of pollution that can degrade coastal water quality, leading to the closure of beaches or shellfish beds. The key to controlling boat sewage is proper maintenance, use of on-board toilets and proper disposal of waste. 

Marine Sanitation Control Measures

If a vessel has an installed toilet, it must be equipped with an operable Marine Sanitation Device (MSD). Vessels 65 feet long and smaller must have either a Type I, II or III. Vessels over 65 feet must have a Type II or III. All Type I and II MSDs (that treat and discharge sewage) must have a certification label affixed by the manufacturer.

Vessels with Type I and II MSDs can legally discharge waste into coastal waters unless the waters are designated as a “No Discharge Zone.” Discharge of untreated sewage is only permitted in ocean waters more than 3 miles from shore. Portable toilets should never be emptied overboard. They should be emptied at shoreside dump stations. 

Holding tanks should be pumped out at shoreside pump-out stations. Although a "Y" valve is permitted, when operating in Maryland waters it must be secured to prevent the discharge of raw sewage. The use of a non-reusable wire tie, or padlock, or removing the valve handle are acceptable ways to secure the "Y" valve.  

To Help Keep our Chesapeake Bay and Waterways Clean and Healthy:

  • Never discharge raw sewage into the water; use appropriate shoreside disposal facilities.  
  • Never empty portable toilets overboard. Overboard dumping of potentially infected feces could cause illness and/or closure of beaches or shellfish waters.
  • Never discharge in a No Discharge Zone. 
  • Avoid discharging in shallow estuarine waters, since they are poorly flushed by tides and/or currents.  
  • When at the dock, use restrooms rather than your MSD.  
  • Pump-out facilities for sewage disposal may be found at many marinas and boat docking facilities. 

Call the Department of Natural Resources​ at 410-260-8772 for pump out locations. For more information about shellfish safety, call our Environmental Assessment and Standards Program at (410) 537-3818.

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