Lake Erie designated a 'no discharge zone'

Jun 23, 2014

Boaters are now banned from dumping raw sewage into Lake Erie. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a petition filed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Buffalo's Lake Erie, at Erie Basin Marina.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Lake Erie is now a "no discharge zone." It is now illegal for boaters to discharge raw sewage or partially treated sewage not only into Lake Erie, but also the Upper Niagara River and numerous other tributaries, harbors and bays along the lake. That includes the Buffalo Outer Harbor, Dunkirk and Barcelona Harbors.

Boaters are now required to remove the waste at one of the lake's designated pump-out-stations.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck tells WBFO dumping the sewage creates harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals in Lake Erie.

"What often comes along with the raw sewage is sometimes there's chlorine and formaldehyde in the some of these discharge boats and so we want to be really careful on these things," said Enck.

The ban includes dumping into the Upper Niagara River and numbers tributaries and harbors along Lake Erie.  Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper executive director Jill Jedlicka  is pleased with the ban. 

"Riverkeeper wholeheartedly supports the "no discharge" designation for the entirety of Lake Erie.  We know this is a good first step for the shoreline region," said Jedlicka in a WBFO interview.

Riverkeeper continues its on-going dredging of the Buffalo River to clear out years of chemicals.

Lake Erie at Erie Basin Marina.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Many of the pump-out-stations  for boaters are available for boaters at marinas. The EPA says numerous levels of government making sure the new requirement is enforced  as well as marinas to advertise the  availability of pump-out stations.

"This is a pretty simple fix -- our boat hooks up to a marina pump-out station," noted Enck.