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

It is illegal to discharge waste, oil, or trash into any state or federally controlled waters. This is for very good reasons.

  • Sewage carries disease and other pollutants that are harmful to people, aquatic plants, and animals.
  • Trash thrown into the water can injure swimmers and wildlife alike. It also can plug engine cooling water intakes.
  • Pollution is unsightly and takes away from your enjoyment of the water.
The Refuse Act

Vessel operators need to be aware of the following regulations for waste, oil, and trash disposal that apply to both federally controlled and state waters. The Refuse Act prohibits throwing, discharging, or depositing any refuse matter of any kind (including trash, garbage, oil, and other liquid pollutants) into the waters of the United States.

Discharge of Sewage and Waste - Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs)

MSD pump-out station
MSD Diagram

If you have a recreational boat with installed toilet facilities, it must have an operable marine sanitation device (MSD) on board.

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 U.S. Coast Guard–certified.