USA: North Carolina Coast – Update to No Discharge Regulation

Published 13 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Originally posted 18 April 2010

Update (in bold) posted 8 May 2010

Just a reminder to cruisers that will be transiting the North Carolina Coastal area around Carolina Beach, Snows Cut and even sections of the Cape Fear River, There is currently a no discharge regulation in effect. Please read the following notice:

The Division of Water Quality received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its petition to designate coastal waters along the entire length of New Hanover County as a No Discharge Zone – an area where the discharge of boat vessel sewage, both treated and untreated, is prohibited. The approval appeared in the federal register on Feb. 22 and the NDZ designation is now activated.

Waters affected by the prohibition include waters extending three nautical miles into the Atlantic Ocean along the entire length of New Hanover County.

Included are Futch Creek, Pages Creek, Bradley Creek, Hewlett’s Creek, Howe Creek, Whiskey Creek, Snow’s Cut, and all unnamed tributaries and tidal creeks to those waters.

To know if this applies to you, you will need to know what waters have been petitioned as no discharge zones. That certainly will make it clear. Many have questioned whether this applies only to North Carolina boats or boats in transit. As the legislation is written, it applies to ANY vessel, which we will have to assume means transient, registered in other states, or documented vessels.

Under federal regulations, states can prohibit the discharge of any sewage, whether treated or not, if they determine that greater protections for water quality are needed.

As part of the process, petitioners must demonstrate in a petition to EPA that an adequate number of reasonably available pump out facilities exist. Nine marinas are located within the New Hanover NDZ and two are located within seven nautical miles of the zone.

Toilets on boats, also called marine sanitary devices or MSDs, generally come in three types. MSD Type I and Type II is designed to discharge into the waterway at each use. This is prohibited in a No Discharge Zone. Type III MSDs, which store waste for later disposal, must be emptied at a marina pump out.

The total vessel population for New Hanover County as of August 2008 was 13,940, according to registrations with N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. This number reflected an increase from 2006 registrations of nearly 15 percent. Boats with MSD equipment, both locally registered and transient, were estimated in 2008 at 2,194 or approximately 244 boats per each of the nine pumps out facilities within the NDZ.

For more information about federal No Discharge Zone regulations, go to the EPA Web site at:

Additional navigational information and comments from other cruisers can be found on our website at

Chuck Baier

General Manager

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