EPA considers banning sewage dumping on St. Lawrence River

Apr 22, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working towards outlawing boaters from dumping their sewage into the St. Lawrence River. The agency says the river could be designated a “no discharge zone.”

It’s been against the law since the 1970s to dump untreated sewage in U.S. waterways like the St. Lawrence River. But John Martin, with the EPA, says the new proposal would also apply to treated sewage.

“A lot of times boaters for whatever reason will dump untreated sewage into the water. Of course that’s not very easy to enforce if you own a very small vessel,” Marin said.

By making the St. Lawrence a no discharge zone it will be clear -- no boaters, small or commercial -- can release any sewage into the water.

According to Martin, dumping is already banned in Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain and Lake George.  For years, it  wasn’t enforced on the St. Lawrence River because there weren’t enough pump-out stations along the shore where boaters could empty their sewage. Now, that’s changed. State officials have confirmed that there are 22 working pumps now.

“Thankfully the EPA took a look at it and determined boaters would have enough options there to use pump out stations instead of dumping their treated sewage into the water.”

That’s great news to Lee Willbanks who directs the Clayton-based environmental group Save the River.

“Imagine a line of cheerleaders and me jumping up with them. This is absolutely great,” Willbanks said.

The proposed “no discharge zone” would extend from Tibbets Point on Lake Ontario in Cape Vincent to just east of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation on the St. Lawrence.

The EPA is taking public comments on its proposal until next Monday.

Comment on the EPA’s proposal can be emailed to Moses Chang at chang.moses@epa.gov or faxed to Chang at (212) 637-3891.

(Click map for larger version)
Credit New York State DEC.