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History of No Discharge Zones (NDZs) in Massachusetts

Learn about how the complete ban on boat sewage discharge was achieved in Massachusetts.

In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the state’s designation of all of Massachusetts waters as a No Discharge Zone (NDZ)—which capped a 23-year effort with the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) working hand-in-hand with cities and towns, harbormasters, environmental groups, marinas, and commercial vessel operators to ensure that there was local support for NDZs and that a sufficient number of pumpout facilities were readily available. Throughout this process, CZM formed and maintained a close working relationship with EPA to move the NDZ designation process along smoothly and successfully.


The Massachusetts NDZ effort started in 1991 with the coastal waters of Wareham being designated as the first NDZ on the East Coast. Since then, 20 NDZs ranging from as small as 1 square mile (the coast of Harwich) to as large as 730 square miles (Southern Cape Cod and Islands) were designated until the entire 2,533 square miles of Massachusetts waters were covered. The results are cleaner coastal waters and convenient pumpout options for boaters along the entire Massachusetts coastline. Below is a list of designations with their respective years and areas.

NDZ Area Year Area
(square miles)
Wareham 1991 1
Nantucket 1992 67
Waquoit Bay, Falmouth 1994 3
Westport 1994 1
Stage Harbor, Chatham 1996 1
Harwich Coastal Waters 1998 1
Buzzards Bay 2000 277
Barnstable 2001 3
Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury 2006 64
Boston Harbor 2008 85
Cape Cod Bay 2008 638
Salem Sound 2008 54
Scituate, Marshfield, Cohasset 2008 50
Lower North Shore 2009 34
Pleasant Bay 2010 14
Upper North Shore 2010 155
Outer Cape Cod 2011 176
Mount Hope Bay 2012 10
Southern Cape Cod and Islands 2012 733
Ferry Corridors and Western Mass Bay 2014 166
Total   2533