CRA, DNR sub­mit no-dis­charge zone ap­pli­ca­tion

The Kent Island Bay Times - - News - By DORIAN MITCHELL dmitchell@thekent­coun­

CH­ESTER­TOWN — In an ef­fort to im­prove the health of the Ch­ester River, the Ch­ester River As­so­ci­a­tion and the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources have part­nered to sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion to deem it a no-dis­charge zone.

DNR Pro­gram Ad­min­is­tra­tor Donna Mor­row said the ap­pli­ca­tion was sub­mit­ted to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency for re­view last month. She said a said a nodis­charge zone is a fed­eral des­ig­na­tion that means boats or other ves­sels can­not dis­pose of any marine waste from san­i­ta­tion de­vices.

“In terms of per­cent­ages, this is not a small prob­lem . ... This goes af­ter boats that san­i­tize waste through a sys­tem,” Mor­row said. “The CRA un­der­stands that the Ch­ester is nu­tri­ent-im­paired, so they wanted to elim­i­nate all sources of those.”

Ch­ester River­keeper Is­abel Hardesty said the ap­pli­ca­tion has been an on­go­ing process for four years.

In an email, she wrote that dis­charged sewage, even when treated, still con­tains lev­els of bac­te­ria and nu­tri­ents that can “im­pact the health of our river and hu­man health.”

“Boat sewage is con­cen­trated, and small creeks and streams that do not flush well are per­fect lo­ca­tions for pol­lu­tion hotspots,” she wrote.

There are three types of marine san­i­ta­tion de­vices for boats that have heads. Types 1 and 2 treat sewage and dis­charge what re­mains into the wa­ter, while Type 3 is a hold­ing tank that is pumped out at a ma­rina.

If the CRA’s ap­pli­ca­tion is ap­proved, de­vices that are Types 1 and 2 will not be al­lowed to dis­charge in the Ch­ester River.

Hardesty said the ap­pli­ca­tion re­quired proof that the Ch­ester River was im­paired and needs such a des­ig­na­tion. She said the CRA and the DNR con­ducted test­ing and worked to quan­tify the ex­act num­ber of pump-out sta­tions avail­able to boaters in Kent County.

She said pump-out sta­tions take waste col­lected from boats and send it to treat­ment plants.

“We es­ti­mated the num­ber of boats that use the Ch­ester River,” Hardesty said. “We found that there are plenty of pump-out sta­tions to ser­vice boaters.”

She said in the past four years, the CRA held pub­lic meet­ings and so­licited com­ments to fur­ther sup­port the NDZ ap­pli­ca­tion. She said there was a lot of sup­port from both lo­cals and those who want to see the Ch­ester River be­come health­ier.

“The im­pact of treated boat sewage on our river may be min­i­mal com­pared with other sources of pol­lu­tion in our wa­ter­shed, but it is not in­signif­i­cant,” Hardesty wrote. “If we ex­pect farm­ers, in­dus­tries and home­own­ers to do their part to re­duce pol­lu­tion, boaters must be a part of the so­lu­tion as well.”

How­ever, there also has been op­po­si­tion dur­ing the CRA’s at­tempt to ob­tain a no-dis­charge des­ig­na­tion. At the pub­lic hear­ings, ma­rina own­ers, char­ter cap­tains and oth­ers alike voiced their dis­con­tent.

A re­cur­ring theme for their ar­gu­ments was that boaters who use and travel the Ch­ester River — both lo­cals and vis­i­tors — will not do so any­more if the NDZ ap­pli­ca­tion is ap­proved. That po­ten­tially could harm a num­ber of small mari­nas in Kent County, they said.

“It will drive those boat own­ers out of this river,” Doug Ed­wards, co-owner and man­ager of Lank­ford Bay Ma­rina — lo­cated near Rock Hall — said dur­ing a 2014 hear­ing. “In my opin­ion, this kind of step is not go­ing to make a drop in the bucket to­ward (what) the real prob­lem is in this (Ch­e­sa­peake) Bay.”

Mor­row said the EPA’s web­site had a 30-day pub­lic com­ment pe­riod for the ap­pli­ca­tion that ended late last month. She said the EPA is ex­pected to make a de­ci­sion in the fol­low­ing weeks.

“We’re very op­ti­mistic about this ... and look for­ward to see what this means for wa­ter health,” Hardesty said. “Lo­cals are in­ter­ested in this, the state is in­ter­ested in this and so we’re hope­ful the EPA will see the need for this.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the Ch­ester River NDZ ap­pli­ca­tion, visit www.dnr.mary­­ing/Pages/pumpout/ndz.aspx.

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