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Public comment sought on risk-based approach to discharge of sewage from boats

01 November 2013

Members of the public are invited to comment on a draft directive looking at possible longer term arrangements for the disposal of sewage from vessels in Tasmanian waters.

The discharge of sewage from vessels is currently prohibited in all State waters under the Pollution of Waters by Oils and Noxious Substances Act 1987.

EPA Director Alex Schaap said that complete prohibition will remain unless a Bill to be put before the Parliament in November is passed to allow for discharge of sewage in accordance with a sewage discharge directive.

“Earlier this year I convened an expert working group to discuss possible longer term sewage discharge arrangements for vessels in Tasmanian waters which could be adopted if the Bill is passed,” Mr. Schaap said.

The working group was chaired by Mr. Schaap and included representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), TasWater, Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST), the Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council (TSIC), yacht clubs and commercial and recreational boat owners.

The working group held several meetings in Hobart where members reviewed and provided ideas about how best to deal with the issues as well as feedback on drafts of a proposed directive.

Key parts of the draft directive include:

• Having minimum no-discharge distances which should adequately manage risks to various sensitive things such as inshore and sheltered waters, near swimmers and near shellfish farms;

• Having a minimum depth limit because you need a large volume of water to discharge into and you don’t get that in the shallows;

• Allowing urine to be discharged from vessels provided that no part of the discharge includes any faecal material; and

• Making provision for the fact that sewage discharge from lots of people is more risky so needs to be further offshore.

“The idea is to develop a sewage discharge directive which adequately manages the risks with the minimum cost and inconvenience to vessel operators,” Mr. Schaap said.

“Sewage does present risks to health and to the environment and there are a range of boat users out there and that’s why it was important to hear a variety of opinions on this issue. We also looked at what’s been done interstate and overseas as a starting point to our discussion locally.”

Mr. Schaap said it was also important to note that while the proposed draft directive in Tasmania is less restrictive on sewage discharge than most other states, this situation is proposed to tighten up in 2018 to bring local arrangements a little closer to the restrictions in other jurisdictions.

Copies of the draft directive on the discharge of sewage from certain vessels into State waters will be available on the EPA website

Public comment is invited until 5pm Monday 2 December 2013.

Written submissions are welcome:

Post to:

The Director EPA

GPO Box 1550, Hobart 7000

Or email to:

epaenquiries@environment.tas.gov.au