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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is the discharge of boat waste really a problem?
    Most of the areas where boats congregate (harbors, anchorages, and marinas) are naturally sheltered and semi-enclosed. Therefore, these sheltered areas also are not flushed as well as more open waters. The end result is that most pollution that we put in these areas ends up staying there. Bacteria, chemicals, and nutrients contained in human waste from boats can overload small, poorly flushed waterways and cause local water quality problems. Disease carrying bacteria, viruses, and protozoa can enter the water through the direct discharge of boat waste. Direct threats to human health can arise through ingestion of contaminated water or consumption of fish or shellfish that have ingested these pathogens. Scientists have shown there are more bacteria in the untreated waste discharged by one boat than in the treated wastewater discharged by a small city!
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  • What Does New Hampshire Law Say About Boat Discharges?
    The following was taken from New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, 1992, Titles 48-50 Conveyances to Water Management & Protection, Chapters 447-487. Butterworth Legal Publishers

487:1 Definitions. As used in this chapter.
I. "Boats" means any vessel or watercraft whether moved by oars, paddles, sails or other power mechanism, inboard or outboard, or any other vessel or structure floating upon the water whether or not capable of self locomotion, including but not limited to house boats, barges and similar floating objects.
II. "Division" means the division of water supply and pollution control, department of environmental services.
III. "Graywater" means galley, bath, and shower water.
IV. "Marine toilet" means any toilet on or within any boat as that term is defined herein.
V. "Sewage" means human body wastes and graywater, plus wastes from toilets, sinks, showers, and other receptacles intended to receive or retain body wastes or graywater.
VI. "Waters of this state" means waters classified, or unclassified, as defined in RSA 485-A.

487:2 Restrictions on Marine Toilets. No marine toilet on any boat operated upon waters of the state shall be so constructed and operated as to discharge any sewage into said waters either directly or indirectly, nor shall any sewage or container of sewage be placed, left, discharged, or caused to be placed, left, or discharged in or near any waters of the state by any person at any time whether or not the owner, operator, guest or occupant of a boat; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall prohibit such discharge to a municipal sewerage system or to any adequate sewage disposal system on shore.

487:3 Restrictions on Sinks and Showers. No sink or shower on any boat operated upon the fresh waters of the state shall be so constructed or operated as to discharge any graywater into said waters either directly or indirectly.

487:4 Responsibility of Marinas and Shore Property Owners.
I. All owners and operators of any marina or shore property located on fresh waters of the state shall cooperate with the division by publicizing the requirements of this chapter among the boating fraternity and other interested parties.
II. The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to new boats held in inventory by marine dealers which are placed in fresh waters of the state for demonstration purpose only; provided that toilets, sinks, or showers on said new boats shall not be placed in commission and shall be sealed and clearly posted to preclude their use.

487:5 Rulemaking. The division shall adopt appropriate rules pursuant to RSA 541-A to implement the provisions of this chapter.

487:6 Compliance. No person shall knowingly launch into the fresh waters of the state any boat which is not equipped in compliance with the provisions of this chapter.

487:7 Penalty; Administrative Fines.
I. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter or of rules of the division adopted under this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if a natural person, or guilty of a felony if any other person. If a fine is imposed it shall constitute a lien against the boat on which the offense was committed whether or not the defendant is also the registered owner or operator of said boat unless said boat was used without permission of the owner.
II. The commissioner of environmental services, after notice and hearing pursuant to RSA 541-A, may impose an administrative fine not to exceed $2,000 for each offense, upon any person who violates any provision of this chapter. Rehearings and appeals from a decision of the commissioner under this paragraph shall be in accordance with RSA 541. Any administrative fine imposed under this section shall not preclude the imposition of further penalties under this chapter. The proceeds of administrative fines levied pursuant to this paragraph shall be deposited by the division in the general fund. The commissioner shall adopt rules, under RSA 541-A, relative to:

(a) A schedule of administrative fines which may be imposed under this paragraph for violations of this chapter.
(b) Procedures for notice and hearing prior to the imposition of an administrative fine.

487:8 Enforcement. All boats located upon waters of this state shall be subject to inspection by the division or any lawfully designated agent or inspector of the division at any time for the purpose of determining whether such boat is equipped in compliance with this chapter. The members of the division, its agents and inspectors, for these purposes shall have all the powers of a deputy sheriff throughout the state.

487:9 Require Registrations. No boat shall be operated upon waters of this state having within or on it a marine toilet without a certificate of registration from the department of safety, division of motor vehicles, as required by RSA 270 and RSA 270-E.

487:10 Suspension of Registration. If upon said inspection it shall appear that any marine toilet, sink, or shower within or on a boat in operation on fresh waters of the state is so constructed as to permit the discharge of any sewage to a surface water of the state contrary to the provisions of the chapter, the member, agent, or inspector is directed not later than 48 hours after such finding to require from the owner, operator, or any person on board said boat, production and surrender of its certificate and plate of registration. The owner, operator, or any person on board shall have 48 hours from said production and surrender of certificate and plate of registration within which to remedy the defect. If, within said period the defect is remedied, the certificate and registration shall be returned. If, at the expiration of the 48 hours, the defect is not remedied, said member, agent, or inspector shall then endorse in ink upon said certificate of registration a brief statement of the nature of the violation and shall forward it forthwith by mail or in person to the department of safety, division of motor vehicles, where it shall be held by said division until receipt of written authority from the division of water supply and pollution control for its return. Such authority shall include a statement that the specified violation has been remedied in accordance with the provisions of this chapter and the rules of the division adopted under this chapter.

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  • How can boaters help prevent waste discharge into waters?
    You can do your part to preserve water quality by using landside facilities, when possible, and by having the appropriate type of waste handling system on your boat. All waste systems on inland waters in the state of New Hampshire must be self-contained with no possibility of discharge into the surrounding waters.
    • Make sure your boat has a proper waste containment system for the waters you most frequently navigate. Know the type of marine sanitation device that is installed on your boat (see below for more information).
    • Report vessel sewage discharge violations to the Marine Patrol (inland waters) or the local Coast Guard (coastal NH).
    • If you have sanitary facilities on your boat, USE pumpouts and dump stations. They are convenient and inexpensive. In NH, if the station is funded by the CVA grant, a maximum fee of $5.00 may be charged for use of pumpout facilities.
    • Educate your peers. Inform them of the laws. Tell them about this Web site. Help them understand why it is important to protect New Hampshire waters from boat waste discharges. Refer them to the marina or facility where you have your boat wastes removed.
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  • What type of system is acceptable to install?
    In New Hampshire's freshwaters, recreational boats are required to have a closed toilet system installed, which is a holding tank. There can be no means of overboard discharge, therefore Y-valves are not allowed on lakes or ponds or in the freshwater rivers. Sewage and gray water wastes can only be removed by onshore pumpout or dump stations.
    Boats operated in the coastal water can have any of the approved Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) installed, however, the Y-valves for these systems must be locked in the closed position while operating within 3 miles of NH coastline or in any estuarine water. Types I and II MSDs, those that chlorinate and macerate sewage, are allowed to dump their wastes overboard only when more than 3 miles from any NH coastline (including the Isles of Shoals.) For more information on MSDs see EPA's page to learn more.
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  • Why Should We Act Now To Comply With This Law?
    First of all, it is the law. Second, it is the right thing to do. Boaters often discharge untreated sewage directly overboard. Now is the time to stop this practice and use pumpout and dump stations. The argument that boat sewage is minor compared to other sources of pollution is weak.
    • Raw sewage from a holding tank is much more concentrated and biologically active than treated waste released from sewage treatment facilities.
    • Raw sewage from boats can contain disease-carrying bacteria that can transmit diseases to swimmers and cause closure of shellfish beds.
    • Government grant money is funding a tremendous increase in the number of pumpout and dump stations.
    • Most marinas and mooring fields are situated in waters that have slow moving water and are shallow. Boats are concentrated in these environmentally sensitive areas.
    • Government and citizens’ groups are working aggressively to contain and prevent all forms of water pollution.
    • Growth in boating is placing an additional environmental burden on crowded recreational waters.
    • Advancing technology has given a wide range of "user friendly" sanitation system options.
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NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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