Clean Boating



Boat sewage can contain bacteria and viruses, nutrients, and chemicals that can be harmful to water quality and public health. As of 2014, all of Massachusetts’ waterways are designated as No Discharge Zones (or NDZs). This means the discharge of all boat sewage, whether treated or not, is prohibited on or into waters of the Commonwealth (which typically extend three miles from shore).

The federal Clean Water Act also requires the use of Marine Sanitation Devices on all commercial and recreational vessels that are equipped with installed toilets. Also called MSDs, these systems are the on-board equipment for treating and discharging or storing boat sewage. The NDZ law applies to all waters up to three miles off-shore, but boaters should note that waters of the Commonwealth can extend beyond three miles from shore in areas of Massachusetts Bay, Cape Cod Bay, and Buzzards Bay—see NOAA Chart 13267 for the federal state boundary in Massachusetts Bay.) For a more information and correct MSD instructions see Massachusetts Requirements for Boaters in No-Discharge Zones.


Boat pumpout facilities provide a convenient way to properly dispose of boat sewage. Many of the more than 120 pump-outs in Massachusetts are actually pump-out boats which have the capacity to bring the pump-out TO the boater, providing added convenience. Please see Cape Cod Boat Pump out Facilities for a comprehensive listing by town of pump-out locations.

Clean boating is the responsibility of all boat owners, whether operating small recreational or large commercial vessels. Fuel spills, oil leaks, detergents, and boat sewage discharges can pollute the water and damage the ecosystem. With minimal effort and expense, clean, healthy coastal waters can be enjoyed by all for many years to come. In addition, simple precautions like obeying no wake speed limits and not boating in sensitive, shallow areas, ensure that all boaters are doing their part to preserve delicate habitats. To support clean boating, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has compiled some helpful information and tips for all boat owners: Clean Boating in the Commonwealth.