If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering. Aldo Leopold, Round River, 1993.
Reef Relief's DeeVon Quirolo spearheaded a campaign to improve water quality in the Florida Keys. We supported the creation of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, including the first Water Quality Protection Program of any sanctuary and worked to upgrade Florida Keys sewage treatment systems to the highest level of treatment currently available. Early on, we drafted and helped pass a county phosphate ban that is still one of the strongest in the state. We worked with the City of Key West to phase out the city's ocean outfall and replace it with advanced nutrient-stripped wastewater treatment that is injected into a deep well. DeeVon Quirolo served on the Monroe County Boating and Marine Advisory Committee and the City of Key West Port Authority for many years, building support for clean water initiatives and good planning, including a large mooring field for boaters . Key West's model enabled Reef Relief President Paul G. Johnson to work with the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition and convince the state to pass legislation to shut down all ocean outfalls on coral reefs in the state of Florida and replace them with advanced wastewater treatment and reuse. DeeVon Quirolo led an effort in partnership with the City of Key West to seek the US EPA's approved to designate all Key West waters out 600' from shore declared a No Discharge Zone for boater sewage. The designation was expanded to all state waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and now to all federal waters of the sanctuary as of 2009.
The No Discharge Zone designation prohibits discharging sewage into all State waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This includes treated sewage from marine sanitation devices but does not apply to gray water from showers or sinks, only sewage. Through-hull fittings for disposal of sewage should
be closed and appropriate measures to dispose of sewage implemented. The No Discharge Zone strengthens existing regulations under the Florida Clean Vessel Act so that even chemically-treated sewage cannot be discharged overboard.
All State waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are included in the No Discharge Zone. Waters of the State extend to 3 miles from land on the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys and 9 miles from land on the Gulf of Mexico side of the Florida Keys. The State Clean Vessel Act also prohibits discharging raw/untreated sewage into all State waters and sewage may not be discharged at any of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary SPA’s (Sanctuary Preservation Areas) or the Western Sambo and Tortugas Ecological Reserves.
Pump out facilities are available for boaters at various locations throughout the Florida Keys. (See map). In addition, mobile pump-out services are available. For the most current list of available facilities, log onto www.co.monroe.fl.us/ndz/info.htm.
All vessels (charterboats, liveaboards, fishing boats, private vessels, commercial vessels, houseboats and floating structures) are prohibited from dumping sewage, whether treated or not, into waters of the Sanctuary within the No Discharge Zone. Vessels 26 feet or longer with an enclosed cabin with berthing facilities (as noted in the Florida Clean Vessel Act) and floating structures with enclosed living space must install a holding tank and close the through-hull valve from the toilet.
Most pump-out facilities have universal deck fittings, but you should install a fitting on your vessel that provides a tight seal from your holding tank. Boats can be pumped out where you are by calling a local mobile pump-out service, or you can tie up to a dock with a pump-out facility. Look for the pump-out symbol.
A dock attendant may be available to assist and a fee charged for the service. Most tanks can be pumped out and rinsed in less than 15 minutes. Dump portable waste in vessel pump-out facilities as well. Use biodegradable cleaning products instead of toxic cleansers that damage the marine environment.
On all marine sanitation devices now in use, the valve directing the sewage overboard should be closed and secured with a tie, lock or strap to prevent discharge into the ocean while in the No Discharge Zone.
Existing State laws permit a State or U.S. Coast Guard officer to board a vessel to inspect a marine sanitation device (MSD).
Violations are non criminal infractions carrying fines of $50 (equipment) and $250 (discharge). If a houseboat or floating structure fails to comply within 30 days of being cited, the court can order removal of the craft at the owner’s expense.
The Florida Keys is regulated by several different jurisdictions which have the authority to establish ordinances to implement the No Discharge Zone designation. All Keys municipalities and Monroe County have adopted such an ordinance, establishing penalties for violation of the ban on discharging sewage overboard.
The Florida Keys are famous for diving, fishing and boating. Tourism and commercial fishing industries depend upon clean, healthy water. North America’s only living coral barrier reef lies just offshore. Coral
reefs need clear, clean, nutrient-free waters to thrive.
Water quality is declining throughout the Florida Keys. One of the sources of pollution is an over-abundance of nutrients from inadequately-treated sewage.
Sewage contamination is a health threat. Local beaches have reported increased levels of fecal coliform contamination, which can cause illness and diseases such as hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and gastroenteritis.
The increasing number of boaters in Keys waters contribute to water quality problems. We can all do our part to eliminate pollution from local waters by using vessel pump-out facilities and honoring the No Discharge Zone designation.