SEATTLE - State agencies and water protection groups launched a plan Wednesday to create a No Discharge Zone for vessel sewage in Puget Sound and nearby lakes.

The State Departments of Health and Ecology joined with boat and environmental groups to discuss the plan with reporters.

Chris Wilke, Executive Director of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, said many people are surprised to learn it is actually legal to dump raw sewage from boats in some parts of the Sound and lightly treated sewage in most parts. He said boat treatment systems do not do an ample job of protecting human and environmental health from the bacteria in human waste.

He is encouraging boaters to take advantage of a growing number of free pump out stations popping up at marinas around the Sound.

Amy Jankowiak of the Department of Ecology said boats that dump at sea put shellfish beds and people at swimming beaches at risk.

The plan is just in the information gathering zone right now. If it becomes law it would be phased in over time to allow boat and ship owners to get their systems up to date.

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