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Designating a No Discharge Zone (NDZ)

Find information on how areas that ban the discharge of boat sewage were designated in Massachusetts.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, states may petition (through a written application) for a No Discharge Zone (NDZ) designation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator.

As of 2014, all of Massachusetts waters have been designated as “no discharge” for vessel sewage.

History of the Process

In Massachusetts, the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has been the state lead in the NDZ program. Since 1992, CZM has provided interested communities or non-profit organizations with NDZ resources and information, assisted them in writing the NDZ application, coordinated with EPA, and helped to ensure that the proposed NDZ had adequate pumpout facilities. In addition, all NDZ applications were certified by CZM to be consistent with its Program Policies (PDF, 1 MB), and CZM prepared the NDZ designations for submission to EPA by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).

Once a designation was submitted to EPA, the EPA Regional Administrator determined that each application contained the following seven components required pursuant to Section 312 (f)(3) of the federal Clean Water Act (codified at 33 USC § 1322 - Marine sanitation devices) and Chapter 40 Code of Federal Regulations Section 140.4:

  1. A certification that the protection and enhancement of the waters described in the petition require greater environmental protection than the applicable federal standards.
  2. A map showing the location of commercial and recreational pumpout facilities.
  3. A description of the location of pumpout facilities within waters nominated for a "No Discharge Zone."
  4. The general schedule of operating hours of the pumpout facilities.
  5. The draft requirements on the vessels that may be excluded from a pumpout facility because of insufficient water depth adjacent to the facility.
  6. Information indicating that the treatment of waste from such pumpout facilities is in conformance with federal law.
  7. Information on vessel population and vessel usage of the subject waters.

In addition to these seven requirements, EPA New England reviews the type of outreach campaign planned for boaters when evaluating an area for an NDZ designation.

CZM developed an NDZ Template to assist in the application process. For a copy, please contact CZM's No Discharge Zone Coordinator Todd Callaghan at or (617) 626-1233, or Ann Rodney at EPA New England at or (617) 918-1538.