4.2E – Operation and Maintenance – Sewage Pumpout Facilities and Marine Sanitation Devices

Management Measure

Ensure that sewage pumpout facilities are maintained in operational condition and encourage their use.

Enforce the proper use of marine sanitation devices (MSD).

Management Practices

For Marina Owners

  • Regularly inspect and maintain sewage facilities. Small leaks can cause big pollution problems, and non-functioning facilities increase the chance that boaters will discharge into the water. Consider having a contractor regularly repair and maintain the pumpout and dump station if it takes up too much staff time.
  • Disinfect the suction connection of a pumpout station (stationary or portable) by dipping or spraying it with disinfectant after each use. This practice is primarily for the protection of public health. Ensure that the disinfectant is safely stored such that it is not at risk of being spilled into the water.
  • Provide dump stations for boaters who use portable toilets to dispose of their waste.
  • Keep restroom facilities in the marina clean, dry, and pleasant, and locate them where they are convenient to use.
  • Install signage and provide pamphlets on location of nearest pump-out station and contact information for any local mobile pumpout service provider.
  • Enforce the proper use of Marine Sanitation Devices (MSD). The US Coast Guard (USCG) is responsible for enforcing the proper use of MSDs. Communicate with the USCG and harbor master to make sure that your marina patrons get annual inspections.

For Boaters

  • Boaters should always use onshore restrooms when their boats are docked, particularly if the boat does not have a toilet. If planning a boat trip for three or more hours, plan for onshore restroom stops while buying fuel or eating at waterfront restaurants. A portable toilet can be taken onboard, and dumped at a shoreside station or at home. It is illegal to dump any untreated sewage into any inland lake, river, or coastal water inside the 3-mile limit. Fats, solvents, oil, emulsifiers, paints, poisons, phosphates, disposable diapers, and sanitary napkins should be kept out of toilets. In addition, pets should be taken to a marina”s posted pet walk area and waste disposed of properly.
  • If the boat has a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD) type 1 or 2, which pretreats sewage before it is discharged overboard, by law it must be certified by the U.S. Coast Guard. To keep the MSD working properly, follow the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance program. Clearly post MSD use instructions near the toilet. If your MSD uses a biodegradable disinfectant, keep the liquid container full. For sanitation systems that require pretreatment chemicals, use chlorine- and formaldehyde-free products. To help prevent clogging, use fast-dissolving marine toilet tissue made for MSD use. When in "no discharge" waters, lock or secure the toilet closed so it cannot discharge overboard.
  • If your boat has an MSD type 3 with a holding tank, you must use a pumpout facility. They are fast, clean, easy to use, and inexpensive. Consider contracting with a mobile pumpout service to empty your tank while in the slip. If your boat has a y-valve and through hull, always keep them locked closed when inside coastal waters, in bays, in any inland river or lake where dumping untreated sewage is illegal. Opening a y-valve and through-hull is illegal in California state waters. The best solution is to remove y-valves and through-hulls so no sewage can go overboard. Use only environmentally compatible holding tank deodorants. To help prevent clogging, use fast dissolving marine toilet tissue made for MSD use.
  • To find the nearest pumpout service, consult National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts, cruising guides, boating almanacs, or local pumpout maps, or call the National Hotline (Telephone: 1 800 ASK FISH). When cruising, look for the national pumpout logo at boating facilities to find a pumpout service. If pumping out is self-service, ask a marina staff member for instructions on how to operate the pumpout equipment. Be sure to turn the machine off before leaving and wash your hands after each use.
  • Encourage the installation of more onshore pumpouts and dump stations by letting marina owners know of the need for local facilities. Report any malfunctioning pumpouts or dump stations by calling the National Hotline (Telephone: 1 800 CLEANUP).


  • California Department of Boating and Waterways Pumpout Grant Program is mandated by the Clean Vessel Act (1992) which helps fund the construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of pumpout and dump stations to service pleasure craft.
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Marine Sanitation Device (MSDs), Section 312 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), as amended (33 U.S.C. 1322), requires Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) to prevent the discharge of untreated or inadequately treated sewage into U.S. waters. It requires a certified operable MSD on every vessel (U. S. and foreign) with an installed toilet. Installed toilets that are not equipped with an MSD, and that discharge raw sewage directly over the side, are illegal. Section 312(g)(2) of the FWPCA directs the Coast Guard to certify MSDs.
  • USEPA, No Discharge Zones (NDZ) if a marina is inside a NDZ, there are specific regulations that need to be followed pertaining to type of marine sanitation devices that can be used and the signage that has to be posted to notify the public and boaters that they are in a NDZ. For example, it is illegal to release wastes, treated or not, into NDZs. To date, California has designated the following NDZs: Mission Bay, Oceanside Harbor, Dana Point Harbor, parts of San Diego Bay, Channel Islands Harbor, Avalon Bay Harbor, Upper and Lower Newport Bay, Sunset Bay, Richardson Bay, Lake Tahoe, and Huntington Harbor.

Information Resources

  • California Department of Boating and Waterways, Sewage Holding Tank Systems for Recreational Boats this fact sheet describes California law on sewage holding tanks, and includes information on system design, equipment selection, installation and maintenance.
  • California Department of Boating and Waterways, Shipshape Sanitation this fact sheet explains the California laws regarding vessel sewage discharge, and the importance of proper disposal.
  • California Department of Boating and Waterways, Vessel Pumpout Locations provides the names and phone numbers of marinas with vessel pumpout facilities, which can be sorted by name, city, or region. Regional maps are also available online.
  • San Francisco Estuary Project, MSDs and Pumpout Stations this fact sheet describes the importance of properly disposing of sewage and tips for following management practices.
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Marine Sanitation Device Regulations this fact sheet describes federal regulations and includes a list of no discharge areas in California.
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) this fact sheet provides answers to frequently asked questions about MSDs.
  • USEPA, No-Discharge Zone Evaluation this reports on the effectiveness of vessel sewage "No Discharge Zones" established by states under Section 312(f)(3) of the CWA. USEPA surveyed boaters and marina around the country to obtain information about pumpout availability, pumpout use, and No Discharge Zone awareness.
  • USEPA, Vessel Sewage Discharge Program contains regulatory and technical resources on vessel sewage discharge and marine sanitation devices.


USEPA. 2001. National Management Measures Guidance to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Marinas and Recreational Boating. EPA 841-B-01-005. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.

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