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Frequently Asked Questions


•  How are boating facilities categorized in the state of Virginia?

Marina - Any facility operating under private or public ownership which provides dockage or moorage for boats and provides, for a fee, any equipment, supply or service (fuel, electricity, or water).

Other places where boats are moored - Any facility operating under private or public ownership, which provides dockage or moorage for boats either for a fee or on a free basis.

Under surveillance - This category includes public ramps and any facility, which could potentially expand and be place in the category of marina or other places where boats are moored.

•  What are the Virginia Department of Health's regulatory responsibilities concerning boating facilities in the state?

The health department regulates the onshore sanitary facilities for boating establishments. This includes restrooms, sewage pump-out stations and sewage dump stations. (See "Sanitary Regulations for Marinas and Boat Moorings.")

•  What is a sewage pump-out station, how does it work, and how should a broken pump-out station be reported?

A pump-out station is an apparatus that removes the sewage from a boat's sewage holding tank and discharges the sewage to a wastewater collection system.

The pump has a hose that is fitted with a nozzle. The pump-out hose nozzle is inserted into a fitting on the deck of the boat. The pump suction removes the sewage from the boat.

Broken pump-out stations can be reported by calling the toll free number 1-800-ASK-FISH.

•  What is a sewage dump station?

A dump station is a facility designed to accept the contents of porta-potties.

•  What is a Marine Sanitation Device?

A marine sanitation device is required on all boats with onboard toilets. It treats and discharges or stores the vessel's sewage.

•  What are the different types of marine sanitation devices (MSD's)?

Type I - Treats sewage before discharging by macerating or chopping the solids and then adding chemicals. Must meet specific standards concerning bacteria content and may show no visible solids.

Type II - Provides a higher level of treatment than a type I MSD. Treats sewage biologically and separates the solids for pump-out or incineration.

Holding Tank - A holding tank does not allow for the discharge of sewage. The waste is contained until it can be properly disposed of at a sewage pump-out station. Holding tanks are fitted with a Y - valve which allows for the direct discharge of the contents when offshore the 3 nautical mile regulation.

•  Why is the discharge of boat sewage a problem?

Vessel sewage is much more concentrated than domestic sewage. Vessel sewage contains biological contaminants that can be harmful to humans. The chemicals used to treat vessel sewage can also pose an environmental and health risk.

Some potential health hazards include infectious hepatitis, diarrhea, and cholera.

A single discharge in a low flushing environment such as a marina can be detected for at least one square mile.

Sewage acts as a fertilizer in the marine environment, leading to uncontrolled alga growth and subsequent depletion of dissolved oxygen. Low levels of dissolved oxygen can lead to the death of fish and valuable marine plant life.

Shellfish beds, swimming areas and fishing areas may be closed because of sewage contamination.

•  What is gray water?

Gray water is the water that is produced during bathing and in the galley.

•  Is it legal to discharge untreated sewage in Virginia waters?

It is illegal to discharge untreated sewage within three nautical miles of Virginia's coast.

Many boating facilities also prohibit the discharge of treated sewage at their facilities.

•  What is the Clean Vessel Act?

Congress passed the Clean Vessel Act (CVA) in 1992 to help reduce overboard sewage discharge by recreational boaters. The CVA provides funds to states for the renovation, construction and maintenance of pump-out stations and dump-stations. The CVA allocates portions of the grant money for education programs in the states receiving funds. In Virginia the CVA funds are managed by the Virginia Department of Health through it's Marina Program.

•  How do I, as a marina operator, obtain information on the CVA grant program?

[Click here] to go to the section containing the application and instructions.

•  How many pump-out and dump stations have been installed in Virginia with CVA funds?

Approximately 120 as of 12/15/2000.

•  How much is a marina permitted to charge for a pump-out with a CVA funded pump-out station?

A marina that has installed a pump-out station using CVA funds may charge no more than $5.00 to pump-out a sewage holding tank.


Last Updated: 04-13-2012

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