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Course Outline

Pump-out sign

Signs like this one are posted at pump-out stations.

All Massachusetts waters are a “no discharge zone” (NDZ). Massachusetts law states that it is unlawful to discharge sewage, whether treated or not, or other refuse from your vessel into Massachusetts waters. If you have a recreational vessel with installed toilet facilities, it must have on board an operable marine sanitation device (MSD) that is self-contained and incapable of discharging directly into the water.

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.

All installed devices must be USCG–certified.

MSD at pump-out station
Typical MSD

Boaters can help reduce water pollution by pumping out their sewage. Pump-out stations provide wet vacuums that draw sewage out of a boat’s holding tanks for proper disposal.

  • All of Massachusetts waters are designated as “no discharge” for vessel sewage, so pump-out stations allow boaters to comply with the federal and state laws, which prohibit the discharge of sewage, whether treated or not, in Massachusetts coastal waters.
  • With the assistance of federal and state funding, the number of pump-out stations (and pump-out boats) has increased significantly. Boaters have responded by using them, which already has improved coastal water quality.
  • Use the pump-out stations to keep sewage out of our fishing and swimming areas.

For more information, visit Mass.gov or call 617-626-1200.

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