CRA, DNR submit no-discharge zone application
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.maryland.gov/boating/Pages/pumpout/ndz.aspx.