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Time to end big pollution source | Other Voices
By Richard Walker
Water samples at more than 80 public beaches in the Puget Sound region show fecal coliform bacteria levels that exceed levels considered to be safe. Harmful bacteria pollute fish, shellfish and other food harvested from our waters. They make our beaches inaccessible for recreational use.
Federal, tribal, state and local governments are working to identify and correct pollution sources that harm our waters and marine life. Creosoted pilings are being removed. Changes in agricultural practices are keeping ag waste from streams. Property owners are more closely monitoring their septic systems to prevent leaching into public waters.
There is another pollution source — a big one — that hasn’t been addressed until now: sewage from boats and ships.
Under current federal regulations, treated sewage may be discharged from a ship or boat anywhere in Puget Sound, and untreated sewage may be discharged as long as the boat is more than three miles from shore.
Ecology, the Department of Health and the Puget Sound Partnership have drafted a proposal to make Puget Sound a No Discharge Zone and are submitting it as a draft petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If established, no boat — whether a cruise ship, freighter or pleasure craft — could discharge anywhere within the designated zone. All boats and ships would have to store their sewage until they could safely dispose of it at an onshore or mobile pump-out facility, or hold it until it can be discharged in the open ocean beyond three miles from shore.
The proposed zone extends from Puget Sound, including Lake Union and Lake Washington.
The No Discharge Zone proposal would require a change in practices by those on the water, but it’s a change from which we, and future generations, will benefit.
Richard Walker is editor of the North Kitsap Herald. He may be contacted at 360-779-4464.