California Senate Bill 771, the Clean Coast Act which prohibits all commercial ships from dumping hazardous waste, sewage sludge, oily bilge water, “gray water” from sinks and showers, and sewage in state waters. SB 771 also required California to petition the federal government for a ‘No Discharge Zone’ to enforce the bill’s anti-dumping provisions.
Under the Clean Water Act, states may request EPA to establish vessel sewage no-discharge zones if necessary to protect and restore water quality. In 2006, following passage of three state statutes designed to reduce the effects of vessel discharges to its waters, the State of California asked EPA to establish the sewage discharge ban. After releasing the proposed rule in 2010, EPA considered some 2,000 comment letters from members of the public, environmental groups, and the shipping industry before finalizing the regulation.
In contrast to prior no-discharge zones under the Clean Water Act, which apply in very small areas, the new ban applies to all coastal waters out to 3 miles from the coastline and all bays and estuaries subject to tidal influence. Other California no discharge zones for ten bays and marinas remain in effect for all vessels. Consistent with the State’s request , the new prohibition applies to all passenger ships larger than 300 tons and to all other oceangoing vessels larger than 300 tons with sewage holding tank capacity.
In addition to the discharge prohibition, other vessel sewage discharges will continue to be regulated under existing Clean Water Act requirements, which generally require sewage to be treated by approved marine sanitation devices prior to discharge. The State is also continuing to implement and strengthen other efforts to address sewage discharges from smaller vessels, including recreational boats, to state waters.
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