DEC letter warns vessel owners against improper sewage disposal

Jul 13, 2020

Department of Envriomental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune says finding a solution to illgeal sewage disposal a "top priority," citing enviromental damage to state waters.

Credit KDLG/Sage Smiley

The Department of Environmental Conservation sent a letter last week reminding all vessel operators that dumping sewage too close to shore is harmful to the environment -- and a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The letter explains how sewage can harm fish habitats and spread diseases to people. Discharging sewage within three nautical miles of shore can result in penalties up to $2,000. 

Credit Department of Environmental Conservation

“It is common practice obviously for folks to use a honey bucket on their boat and to just throw it overboard," said DEC Commissioner Jason Brune. "There is no doubt it is an ongoing practice. So we are working to educate folks operating in our waters about the clean water act. I would encourage folks to think about the water in general, think about being good stewards and to bring that to our proper disposal on shore.”

So what can vessel operators do to take charge of waste on-board?

The letter suggests working with nearby harbormasters to determine alternative options like sewage pump stations if available. Other suggestions include the use of “bag-style” camp toilets for solid waste and disposing of those bags along with other waste at approved locations.

Brune said he’s focused on working with vessel owners to find a long- term solution.

“We have environmental standards that we want to hold folks to," Brune said. "To make sure that we’re being protective of our marine resources, of our fish and of the environment that we love here in Alaska.”

You can learn more about the Alaska Clean Harbors program and current regulations from these sites:

Spills and violations can be reported at:

  • Marine sanitary violations to the USCG National Response Center: 800-424-8802
  • Oil spills and other hazardous substances to DEC Spill Response: 907-269-3060

Contact the author at or 907-842-2200.