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Pumpout Station sign
Signs like these are posted at pump-out stations in Louisiana.

State and federal law prohibits vessels from discharging any untreated sewage into the waters of Louisiana.

Recreational boats are not required to be equipped with a toilet. However, the Clean Water Act requires that if a toilet is installed, it must be equipped with an operable marine sanitation device (MSD) that is USCG–certified. Installed toilets that are not equipped with an MSD, and that discharge raw sewage directly over the side, are illegal.

Portable toilets or “porta-potties” are not considered installed toilets and are not subject to the MSD regulations. Portable toilets are subject to disposal regulations which prohibit the disposal of raw sewage within territorial waters (three-mile limit), the Great Lakes, or navigable rivers.

Pump-out station
Typical Marine Sanitation Device

There are three types of MSDs.

  • Types I and II MSDs are usually found on large vessels. Waste is treated with special chemicals to kill bacteria before the waste is discharged. Types I and II MSDs with Y valves that would direct the waste overboard must be secured so that the valve cannot be opened. This can be done by placing a lock or non-reusable seal on the Y valve or by taking the handle off the Y valve.
  • Type III MSDs provide no treatment and are either holding tanks or portable toilets. Collected waste should be taken ashore and disposed of in a pump-out station or onshore toilet.

Vessels 65 feet or less in length may use a Type I, II, or III MSD. Vessels more than 65 feet in length must install a Type II or III MSD.

Holding tanks (Type III MSDs) will not be labeled as USCG–certified; however, they will be considered certified if they are used to store only sewage and flushed water and if they operate at ambient (outside) air temperature and pressure.