EPA Endorses No-Discharge Zone For St. Lawrence

The EPA has confirmed the feasibility of a no-discharge zone in the St. Lawrence River, citing substantial facilities that allow for alternative means of waste disposal.

The announcement comes in response to a petition by the New York DEC to stop sewage dumping in the river, clearing the way for rehabilitation of the site. Though the St. Lawrence remains a critical resource for the region, as the outflow of the Great Lakes and one of America’s largest bodies of water, protections lag behind the other major outlets in New York, namely the Great Lakes, State Canal System and Hudson River.

The planned sector would extend from Tibbets Point, on Lake Ontario, to the western edge of Lake Saint Francis. In addition to areas outside of New York’s borders, it would exclude portions that run through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation. This leaves approximately 114 miles under New York’s jurisdiction, of a total of 744. The St. Lawrence flows from Lake Ontario to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the world’s largest estuary.

No-discharge zones prohibit boats from dumping sewage, treated or untreated, into the water within three miles of the shore. Federal law already prohibits boats from dumping untreated sewage, but does not guard against the treated variety. In order to qualify for a no-discharge zone, an area must have an alliterative means of disposal. Upon review of the St. Lawrence, the EPA found that facilities in the area allow mariners to pump out their sewage.

The New York DEC has stated that a no discharge zone will offer a cleaner, safer source of water. Sewage discharge can yield all manner of harmful pathogens and chemicals, including formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine. In addition to posing a public threat, these materials can erode habitats and imperil aquatic life. The DEC has found consistently poor quality of water in the Great Lakes and on their shores.

The EPA has left the issue open to public comment until April 25th.