Warning!! EPA to propose new boating regulations!! (but don’t panic)
It all started with a note from one of the boat-related organizations I belong to, warning of upcoming action by EPA, and how this organization is going to “fight vigorously” to “preserve our rights” to enjoy the water … (and, of course, asking me to send additional money). There was a lot of speculation on the docks and online about what these proposed regulations would entail; and a few references to past approaches that had unintended consequences. Would they require expensive or impractical retrofits? How would the watermen, in some cases already on the edge financially, make it? Or would regulations make it impossible to live aboard at all?So I checked the Federal Register for the announcement with some trepidation. The wording there gave no hint as to what they really had in mind: “Boating activities can also introduce toxic chemicals and other pollutants,” and went on to discuss graywater (the discharge from the galley sink), the antifouling paints on the hull, and bilge water. If they’re looking at things as relatively minor (as I perceived) as the rinse water from my dishes, I’m in trouble. What could I do, store the rinsewater (where?) and pump it out like we currently do with sewage? How? There was a discussion of how boats could inadvertently transport invasive species from one body of water to another. But wait, boats are supposed to travel … I had nightmares of overreaching regulations, and saw my beloved liveaboard way of life being taken away. Yikes!
So I nervously signed up to participate in an EPA webinar on the proposed rules last week along with 452 other people, and got a totally different perspective. The speaker and EPAs point of contact for this action, Brian Rappoli, was serious and articulate, and quite practical. He gave a straightforward powerpoint presentation and explained that he was expecting that what we’d see day-to-day on the Chesapeake Bay would not change significantly with the new regulations, nor did they intend to require expensive installations. You could perfectly protect the environment by banning all cars and all roads, but that doesn’t make sense either. Indeed, the presentation was far more about education and management practices than hardware, and far less scary than the scuttlebutt.
Most boaters want to do the right thing, and just about everyone I know understands that you don’t pump sewage overboard, or discharge oil or diesel or gas with your bilge water, or throw trash in the creek. How do you make it easy for people to do the right thing? One example is Annapolis’s pumpout boat. Supported by a grant from DNR, the boat comes to you, and makes it easy to empty your sewage holding tank for a nominal fee in less than 15 minutes. Another way to make it easy to do the right thing is to make alternatives available, such as low-impact soaps to minimize impacts from graywater sink/shower discharge. There’s a role for education, such as teaching people to wash off boat & trailer before moving from one lake to another to avoid transporting invasive species. I see three tools: regulation, education, providing good alternatives/new technologies. But really? Despite the adversarial approach of the flyer I quoted at the beginning of this post, we’re all on the same side. EPA and the boating community have a common goal -- we all benefit from sparkling clean waters.
For more information, You can read the notice posted in the Federal Register, or visit the EPA Clean Boating website. Webinars will be held May 5 and 10 , (sign up here) and there will be a public meeting to discuss these proposed rules at the Doubletree Hotel at 210 Holiday Court, Annapolis, on April 29 at 7:00 PM. EPA also certifies environmentally friendly boating products, and Maryland provides numerous suggestions about environmentally sound boating practices.