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Old 13-09-2018, 11:35   #1
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Do the potty police have science on their side?

So, is there any science behind the widespread use of no-discharge zones, that is, where properly treated sewage can't be discharged?


Given that the MSDs have improved since the regulations were adopted in the 1970s, is that science still valid?


In light of the fact that there is inherently some spillage of wholly untreated sewage during pumpout and disposal, is pumpout still an environmentally "greener" approach than treating sewage onboard?
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Old 13-09-2018, 11:55   #2
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
So, is there any science behind the widespread use of no-discharge zones, that is, where properly treated sewage can't be discharged?


Given that the MSDs have improved since the regulations were adopted in the 1970s, is that science still valid?


In light of the fact that there is inherently some spillage of wholly untreated sewage during pumpout and disposal, is pumpout still an environmentally "greener" approach than treating sewage onboard?

The best answer for the first two is Google. For an area to be listed as and NDZ there are very specific criteria. I would not call them "wide spread;" They are in fact, very limited.


The last question is more philosophical. If you are spilling during pump out, you are doing something very wrong. That should be zero. Is on-board treatment generally more effective than POTWs? Not by a mile. On board treatment ONLY destroys bacteria. It does NOTHING for BOD, nitrogen, or phosphorous. Do POTWs and collection systems have overflows? Yes, but if you look at that as a % of the waste treated, which is many, many millions of gallons per day at a typical POTW, it's a rounding error (that needs addressed). Are on board systems good enough? If operated properly and discharged in areas with reasonable flow, the EPA thinks so.
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Old 13-09-2018, 12:06   #3
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

You need to watch more Star Trek movies:
"Mister Spock, if you wanted logic, you've come to the wrong planet." [James T. Kirk, Captain.]
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Old 13-09-2018, 12:08   #4
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

If they are some of the same people in Mass DEP - no.
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Old 13-09-2018, 12:10   #5
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

The logic of public policy is to grant the greatest freedom to the most people with the fewest sacrifices required by the fewest people for said freedoms to the larger body.

If you're one of the ones who is expected to sacrifice, it sucks to be you.

If you ask a bunch of sacrificers what they think of their plight, you already know your answer.

To answer the question, there are MSDs that scientifically satisfactorily treats waste on board. They are fairly expensive and a substantial percentage of boaters will not purchase and/or appropriately maintain and use them. Thus the "science" behind NDZ policy I think is political science, not a biochem derived science.
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Old 13-09-2018, 12:19   #6
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

Quote:
Originally Posted by thinwater View Post
The best answer for the first two is Google. For an area to be listed as and NDZ there are very specific criteria. I would not call them "wide spread;" They are in fact, very limited.

The only two criteria for an area to be listed as NDZ (using the typical provisions of the law that cover 90% of the cases) are:


1) The state with jurisdiction asks for it, and
2) There are adequate pumpout facilities available


Quote:

The last question is more philosophical. If you are spilling during pump out, you are doing something very wrong. That should be zero. Is on-board treatment generally more effective than POTWs? Not by a mile. On board treatment ONLY destroys bacteria. It does NOTHING for BOD, nitrogen, or phosphorous. Do POTWs and collection systems have overflows? Yes, but if you look at that as a % of the waste treated, which is many, many millions of gallons per day at a typical POTW, it's a rounding error (that needs addressed). Are on board systems good enough? If operated properly and discharged in areas with reasonable flow, the EPA thinks so.

The pump-out strategy as a whole involves spillage at various points between the boat and the POTW. Usually pumpout operators rinse the hose in the lake/river/bay/etc when they're done which gets some contamination in the body of water -- whatever's on the outside of the hose and nozzle. Sometimes there's a geyser when they remove the deck fill. The pumpout system has leaks and maintenance losses. Many marinas around here are not connected to a POTW so the waste has to be trucked, with more opportunities for leakage and spillage.


I'm asking the question of whether the EPA or anyone else is doing ongoing studies and measurements -- rather than just coasting along with whatever seemed to make sense in teh 1970s.
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Old 13-09-2018, 12:34   #7
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

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Originally Posted by Singularity View Post
The logic of public policy is to grant the greatest freedom to the most people with the fewest sacrifices required by the fewest people for said freedoms to the larger body.

If you're one of the ones who is expected to sacrifice, it sucks to be you.

If you ask a bunch of sacrificers what they think of their plight, you already know your answer.

Not necessarily. I'm willing to run my boat in a reasonable way in order to do my part to keep the lakes and rivers clean, and I'll go beyond what the laws actually say if the science is convincing.


On the other hand if it's all because some planning committee somewhere is opposed to overnight use of public waters and is using water quality as an excuse to achieve unrelated goals that I do not share, well, I'll try to change the law.
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Old 13-09-2018, 12:45   #8
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

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I'm asking the question of whether the EPA or anyone else is doing ongoing studies and measurements -- rather than just coasting along with whatever seemed to make sense in teh 1970s.
As a thought experiment, imagine that the govt funded studies that have been done and concluded that commercially available $1,000 to $3,000 MSD units do satisfactorily treat waste from small pleasure craft boats. Also, studies conclude (and they do) that in rare but probable circumstances untreated discharge will causes a health/safety problem. Next, you're head of the environmental policy and/or enforcement.

What policy do you make?
If you don't place some restrictions on dumping, how will you address all the "my taxes are too high because the govt funds studies that it doesn't pay attention to" critics?
If you place restrictions, and people continue to dump, what do you do?
How effective is a $5000 fine as a deterrent to someone who has a negative net worth?
How do you keep your job as an environmental service director when people keep dumping? Hire more enforcement staff? Ask to raise taxes to gain revenue to hire boat toilet inspectors? How well is that going to work?

Withstanding all the above, I think the biggest problem with the old research is that it put this topic on anybody's radar screen in the first place. Of all the threats to public health and safety that society could/should worry about, this is subject is nowhere near the top of the list and it distracts from more important life concerns.
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Old 13-09-2018, 13:12   #9
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

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Originally Posted by Singularity View Post
As a thought experiment, imagine that the govt funded studies that have been done and concluded that commercially available $1,000 to $3,000 MSD units do satisfactorily treat waste from small pleasure craft boats. Also, studies conclude (and they do) that in rare but probable circumstances untreated discharge will causes a health/safety problem. Next, you're head of the environmental policy and/or enforcement.

What policy do you make?
If you don't place some restrictions on dumping, how will you address all the "my taxes are too high because the govt funds studies that it doesn't pay attention to" critics?
If you place restrictions, and people continue to dump, what do you do?
How effective is a $5000 fine as a deterrent to someone who has a negative net worth?
How do you keep your job as an environmental service director when people keep dumping? Hire more enforcement staff? Ask to raise taxes to gain revenue to hire boat toilet inspectors? How well is that going to work?

What to do with people who don't treat waste at all wasn't the original question. But I think that the jurisdictions that have taken various steps to make sure that pump-out stations are readily available, fairly priced, and convenient to use are probably doing as well as anyone.


Quote:
Withstanding all the above, I think the biggest problem with the old research is that it put this topic on anybody's radar screen in the first place. Of all the threats to public health and safety that society could/should worry about, this is subject is nowhere near the top of the list and it distracts from more important life concerns.

I would take it a step further and say that there are probably quite a few more solvable problems with water quality that are deserving of more social attention, most of them having to do with overuse of fertilizer in various contexts.
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Old 13-09-2018, 13:14   #10
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

A type 1 MSD still has higher fecal coliform discharge than is allowed on a Chesapeake Bay oyster bed at harvest time. So they aren't that clean.
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Type I is a flow through discharge device that produces effluent having a fecal coliform bacteria count not greater than 1,000 per 100 milliliters and no visible floating solids.
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Old 13-09-2018, 13:23   #11
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
So, is there any science behind the widespread use of no-discharge zones, that is, where properly treated sewage can't be discharged?


Given that the MSDs have improved since the regulations were adopted in the 1970s, is that science still valid?


In light of the fact that there is inherently some spillage of wholly untreated sewage during pumpout and disposal, is pumpout still an environmentally "greener" approach than treating sewage onboard?

Define “properly treated”. Was the water run through a membrane so the fecals were filtered? Perhaps you hit it with CL and then offset the cl with some sodium. Or did you just run it through a macerater?
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Old 13-09-2018, 13:24   #12
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

The short answer to the OP's question is that generally, yes they do have science and data. The longer answer is that the more general MSD regulations are Coast Guard regulations and not the EPA's. Also, generally no discharge zones are established by states through their state Water Quality Standards. If there is a specific one on your state that you find issue with, you have a opportunity to provide comments to the state when they are revising their standards. That process is typically done every three years.

It would be much more useful to discuss a specific no discharge zone as specific can be discussed rather than vague generalities. However, if you really want to get into the details of the requirements you will have much better success talking to your state rather than complaining on a forum.
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Old 13-09-2018, 14:02   #13
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

The basic problem is that to the general public a no discharge zone sounds like a good thing, because they are totally unaware of what it actually means. This includes politicians that request them. The common conception is that these dirty boaters are crapping our nice clean water and they shouldn't be doing that. Most are totally unaware that it's already illegal to do that even without a no discharge zone. They have no idea that on-board treatment systems exist and that the only thing a no discharge zone does is outlaw those. A prime example of the role of politics is the NDZ in Wilmington, NC. A university study found high fecal coli-form counts in a couple of areas and a bunch of local activists raised a stink with the local government so they asked for an NDZ. The politicians were seen to be doing something and the activists were placated. The problem is they accomplished nothing but they were happy. Why did they accomplish nothing? Because all but one of the sites were at boat ramps. Boats that use type one MSDs don't typically use boat ramps. Trailerable boats often use some sort of porta-pottie type device and when the wife says
"you're not putting that sh1t in the car" where do you think it goes. The one site that wasn't a boat ramp was a marina with live aboards. All they had to do to clean that up was enforce existing laws. So people with perfectly legal devices get punished for something they had nothing to do with. Thinwater's observation on BOD Nitrogen and Phosphorus is correct, but in the large scheme of things probably insignificant. Most municipal treatment effectively takes care of BOD but does little for nitrogen and phosphorus. Very few facilities have the tertiary treatment required to remove these as it is very expensive. It should also be noted that except in some small marine protected areas grey water is perfectly legal to discharge and it usually has significant BOD and Phosphorus content.
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Old 13-09-2018, 14:06   #14
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

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...I think that the jurisdictions that have taken various steps to make sure that pump-out stations are readily available, fairly priced, and convenient to use are probably doing as well as anyone.

I would take it a step further and say that there are probably quite a few more solvable problems with water quality that are deserving of more social attention, most of them having to do with overuse of fertilizer in various contexts.
Philosophically I agree with you. At the same time, a significant percentage of people cannot or will not pay the fairly priced pump out fee. Even if pumpout stations were free I bet 5-90% of crew meals would end up unprocessed in the water, depending on cultural variations of adherence to/enforcement of such laws.

As to fertilizer. The two things essential for the survival of any politician are bread and circus. So here we are.
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Old 13-09-2018, 14:12   #15
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Re: Do the potty police have science on their side?

Maybe one thing to do would be to compare water quality and environmental health of areas with a lot of boats that donít pump out, to areas with a lot of boats that do.
Assuming that the need to pump out is what is is claimed or be, then many areas of the Bahamas etc would be waste lands.

What is a greater concern is plastic, but that is seemingly socially acceptable now, so I donít see that changing unfortunately.
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