Gray Water Regulations

KBMillerJr - January 10, 2011

At the last meeting of the Sault Sainte Marie (Mich) Yacht Club we had  a speaker who is a US Coast Guard  a boarding officer. He said that all sinks MUST be contained so that they cannot drain overboard. He said it was a citeable offecne if sinks drain into Great Lakes waters. I was not aware that there are gray water regulations in effect. Am I wrong? Or do we all need to install gray water holding tanks or risk an expensive ticket?

Ken Miller
Devil's Dream, II
Tartan 34c
KBMillerJr's picture

Thank you both. I found the full text of the citation and will pass a copy of the law on to this young man for his edification.

mogline's picture

I seem to remember that Boat US took led the lobbying effort to get this issue resolved so as to exclude recreational craft from these regulation. This section of the Clean Boating Act is definitive:
This Act may be cited as the ``Clean Boating Act of 2008''.

Section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C.
1342) is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(r) Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Recreational
Vessels.--No permit shall be required under this Act by the
Administrator (or a State, in the case of a permit program approved
under subsection (b)) for the discharge of any graywater, bilge water,
cooling water, weather deck runoff, oil water separator effluent, or
effluent from properly functioning marine engines, or any other
discharge that is incidental to the normal operation of a vessel, if the
discharge is from a recreational vessel.''.

Section 502 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C.
1362) is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(25) Recreational vessel.--
``(A) In general.--The term `recreational vessel'
means any vessel that is--
``(i) manufactured or used primarily for
pleasure; or
``(ii) leased, rented, or chartered to a
person for the pleasure of that person.

Bill Rohde's picture

I suspect your Coast Guard speaker was confusing grey water with black water, at least for recreational boats. There is, of course, no black water discharge allowed in Great Lakes waters.

I'm personally aware of no recreational boat grey water restrictions on the Great Lakes with the exception of a few selected areas. For example, some US National Parks have grey water restrictions, most notably including Isle Royale on Lake Superior. There are also restrictions in the immediate shoreline waters surrounding the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (not in the lake waters between the islands, however). That said, I have only heard of enforcement in aggregious situations. For example a camper or boater lathering up ashore at Stockton Island in the Apostles (which also happens to have full time rangers) and then jumping into the water to rinse the soap off. The regulations there require that all such grey water be dumped ashore, a minimum of a certain distance inland from the shoreline.

There are likely very few Great Lakes recreational boat cruisers who have their sinks plumbed to grey water tanks. I personally know of none. But most boats do have shower sumps, which with care can serve as a limited grey water resevoir in restricted areas until transiting outside of the grey water discharge limits, at which time the shower sump "grey water tank" could legally be pumped overboard.