Ecology rolls out new rule to protect shellfish, water quality

By Stefanie Donahue

A new rule banning the discharge of treated and untreated sewage into Puget Sound was signed into law by Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) director Maia Bellon on April 9.

The rule goes into effect on Thursday, May 10, for all recreational vessels and establishes a ‘no discharge zone’ in Puget Sound.

As a result, vessels must use a pump-out station or wait until they’re out of the zone. Some commercial vessels have a five-year delay before the rule goes into effect, said the DOE. Most recreational boats already have holding tanks and for those that have a toilet on board, boaters are required to have a marine sanitation device.

“The Washington Department of Health expects to upgrade or open approximately 1,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds for harvesting near marinas with the establishment of the no discharge zone,” according to DOE.

The new zone includes all marine waters in Washington state that lie within the line between New Dungeness and Discover Island lighthouses and up to the Canadian border; Lake Washington and all water bodies that are connected it to Puget Sound are also included in the zone.

“This is a historic day for the protection and restoration of Puget Sound,” Bellon said in a press release. “Puget Sound is an icon of the Pacific Northwest. Its cultural and economic importance cannot be overstated. It’s the lifeblood of our renowned salmon, shellfish and orcas. Stopping the release of vessel sewage into our waters is absolutely the right thing to do.”

The new rule makes no changes to current graywater requirements. For more information, visit

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