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POWER WASHING BOATS – IT IS THE LAW

by Rob Scanlan, Master Marine Surveyor

www.mastermarinesurveyor.com


I attended a meeting with the Coastal Zone Marine Management officials recently regarding the pressure washing of boats.

 

The Coastal Zone Marine Management was started in 1997 with the intentions and demands for the improvement and protection of coastal water quality and also to address the regulatory issues for environmental compliance.

 

A Commonwealth of Massachusetts Certification Program has been started to address environmental compliance and addressing hazardous waste issues within all coastal waters of the commonwealth.

 

Areas of most concern are the cities, towns, public launching ramps yacht clubs and private boat clubs through out Massachusetts.  Waste water and discharge water from the run-off from power washing boats requires a Federal permit with scheduled regulatory inspections, as well as a Commonwealth of Massachusetts ground

water permit.

 

Monitoring and reporting any violations results in some pretty stiff state and federal penalties and fines.  You can no longer discharge waste water on land unless the water and marine growth you just power-washed of your boat or yacht is contained, collected or re-circulated. 

 

I looked into the cost of the approved systems available, which fall between $40,000 - $80,000. Annual operational costs run about  $2,000 - $4,000.

 

EPA enforcement on power washing is a serious and expensive issue- $32,500 per day, per violation. It is not a “when” question anymore; it is “who.”  Who will be the test case here in Massachusetts?

Inspections will be through out Massachusetts this year, and it is essential to show, at a minimum, a good faith effort to comply with the law in order to minimize penalties. The law is “no discharge without a permit” so all facilities, public and private, must use a holding tank with pumping or recycling or “get a permit to connect to the sewer system, to discharge to groundwater or discharge to surface water.”

What “good faith” means is site-specific, such as “we contain and reuse most power wash water but some effluent leaches out from our system and we haven't corrected that yet.” Or, good faith could be “we applied to the local sewer system and they haven't approved us yet.”

While both are still technically non-compliance, the efforts help. State Inspectors might say “you shouldn't power wash until the compliance is complete’” but the penalties should at least be lower.”
The larger marinas as well as the small city and town public wharves and boat storage facilities must be in compliance immediately.

 

Just when you thought your “boat budget” was strained ~~  

 


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