R.I. no-discharge rule challenged

Rhode Island may experience a lack of visiting yachts similar to the embargo in New Zealand if the recent “no-discharge” law continues. The law, proposed by the EPA and enacted in 1998, prohibits the dumping of treated sewage from ship-board systems in all coastal waters.

Several boaters have spoken out against the measure, citing that it unfairly discriminates against yacht owners and ignores common sense. “The State of Rhode Island, in cahoots with some misguided environmentalists and a seriously misguided EPA, has established what is essentially a ‘no-treatment zone,’ not a no-discharge zone, that was enacted in the 1970s,” said Chuck Husick, a boat owner, engineer, and contributing editor to this magazine who is working to repeal the law.The law has banned the use of on-board marine sanitation devices (MSDs) despite the fact that several studies have shown that sewage processed by this technology is safe to the environment. A study in June 1997 by the University of Sydney revealed that sewage treated with a Type 1 system can even be used in areas where shellfish are harvested for human consumption. Sydney officials had reportedly considered a ban on treated discharge prior to this study.

“To ban the use of MSDs is ridiculous, especially if you consider that two weeks after this law was in place, the Narragansett Treatment Plant in Providence overflowed and discharged 175 million gallons of untreated sewage into Narragansett Bay,” Husick added.

But the law remains and will be enforced for the first time in 1999. “It may be worth it to look at a potential revision of standards, maybe next year or so, if the boating industry could get their ducks in a row,” said Jonathan Amson, a senior scientist at the EPA.

Contact the following members of Congress for comments on the law: Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert, Chairman, and Rep. Robert Borski, Ranking Member, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, B-376 RHOB, U.S. House of Representatives, Wash., D.C. 20515.

By Ocean Navigator