Do your part - help keep our waters clean.

Know the Laws:

The Refuse Act of 1899 prohibits throwing, discharging or depositing any refuse matter of any kind (including trash, garbage, oil, and other liquid pollutants) into the waters of the United States.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or hazardous substances which may be harmful into U.S. navigable waters. Vessels 26 feet in length and over must display a placard at least 5 by 8 inches, made of durable material, fixed in a conspicuous place in the machinery spaces, or at the bilge pump control station, stating the following:
Discharge of Oil Prohibited

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste upon or into any navigable waters of the U.S. The prohibition includes any discharge which causes a film or discoloration of the surface of the water or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water. Violators are subject to substantial civil and/or criminal sanctions including fines and imprisonment.

Regulations issued under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act require all vessels with propulsion machinery to have a capacity to retain oil mixtures on board. A fixed or portable means to discharge oily waste to a reception facility is required. A bucket or bailer is suitable as a portable means of discharging oily waste on recreational vessels.

No person may intentionally drain oil or oily waste from any source into the bilge of any vessel. You must immediately notify the U.S. Coast Guard if your vessel discharges oil or hazardous substances in the water. Call toll-free (voice) 800-424-8802 (In Washington, D.C. (voice) 202-267-3675).

Report the following information:

  •     location
  •     color
  •     source
  •     substances
  •     size
  •     time observed

The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (MARPOL ANNEX V) places limitations on the discharge of garbage from vessels. It is illegal to dump plastic trash anywhere in the ocean or navigable waters of the United States. It is also illegal to discharge garbage in the navigable waters of the United States, including the Great Lakes. The discharge of other types of garbage is permitted outside of specific distances offshore as determined by the nature of that garbage.

Garbage Type

Discharge Plastics including synthetic ropes, fishing nets, and plastic bags.    

Prohibited in all areas.

Floating dunnage, lining and packing materials.    

Prohibited less than 25 miles from nearest land.

Food waste, paper, rags, glass, metal, bottles, crockery and similar refuse.    

Prohibited less than 12 miles from nearest land.

Comminuted or ground food waste, paper, rags, glass, etc.    

Prohibited less than 3 miles from nearest land.

United States oceangoing vessels of 40 feet or longer which are engaged in commerce or are equipped with a galley and berthing must have a written Waste Management Plan describing the procedures for collecting, processing, storing and discharging garbage, and designate the person who is in charge of carrying out the plan.