Public Meetings to be Held on Proposed Vessel Sewage Discharge Regulation

Jan. 07, 2010

The public is invited to attend meetings on NOAA’s proposed rule to prohibit the discharge of sewage from vessels into Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary waters. Information concerning existing no-discharge regulations and boundaries, as well as pump-out facilities, will be available. Public comment will be accepted during these times:

  • Jan.  21 — Marathon Garden Club (5270 Overseas Hwy) 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM
  • Jan.  25 — Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center (35 East Quay Rd, Key West) 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM
  • Jan.  27 — Islamorada Library (MM 81.5) 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM

NOAA seeks comment on a proposed rule prohibiting the discharge of sewage from vessels into sanctuary waters and to require vessel sewage tanks be locked to prevent discharges within sanctuary boundaries. Comments on the proposed rule and the accompanying draft environmental assessment will be accepted if received on or before February 17, 2010.

Vessel sewage discharge has been prohibited in state waters of the sanctuary since their designation as a No Discharge Zone by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2002. Although 65 percent of the sanctuary is within state waters, the remaining federal waters, with the exception of specially-protected zones, currently permit vessel sewage discharge generated by marine sanitation devices.

Current sanitation treatment devices do not kill all viruses found in wastewater, nor do they remove nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, a contributor to degraded water quality and toxic algal blooms. Excessive amounts of nutrients can harm coral reef ecosystems by stimulating the growth of fast-growing aquatic plants and algae, which in turn smother and kill live coral.
Comments may be submitted electronically via the eRulemaking Portal (, FDMS Docket Number NOAA– NOS–2009–0181; or by mail to Sean Morton, Acting Superintendent, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, 33 East Quay Road, Key West, Florida 33040.

Established in 1990, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of important marine habitat, including maritime heritage resources, as well as coral reef, hard bottom, seagrass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit: