Skip to main content

Florida Sea Grant Extension & Education Program

Florida Sea Grant Extension & Education Program

Clean Boating

Why Pump Out?

Florida has over 1,350 miles of coastline and the highest level of recreational boating in the nation. With our mild climate, diverse ecosystems, and abundant marine life it’s no wonder why boating is on the rise. However, increased outdoor activity means increased pollution which can negatively impact water quality and human health. Given the large number of boats in the state, even a small amount of sewage from a fraction of the boats can be harmful

Raw or poorly treated sewage can spread diseases.  Human waste contains bacteria, viruses, and potentially parasites. Contact with water contaminated by human waste can make you sick.  Common symptoms include nausea, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea, sore throat, earache, respiratory problems, skin infections and rashes.  Serious waterborne diseases include hepatitis, typhoid, dysentery, and cholera.  

Boat sewage is highly concentrated and even if treated through a type I or type II Marine Sanitation Devise (MSD), it increases levels of nutrients in the water.  Excess phosphorus and nitrogen from sewage can contribute to harmful algae blooms (HABs), which block sunlight penetration and contribute to lower oxygen level.  Additionally, when sewage breaks down it uses up oxygen in the water.  The amount of dissolved oxygen in the water required to decompose organic matter is measured in terms of “Biological Oxygen Demand” or “BOD”. Waters with high BODs and HABs make it difficult for fish and other aquatic life to survive. 

 A table showing that raw boat sewage is 13 to 44 times higher in nitrogen, phosphorus and oxygen demand compared to municipal sewage

Human waste discharged overboard can contaminate shellfish beds.  Shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels are filter feeders.  They take in large volumes of water every day and eat the tiny food particles in the water, along with any bacteria and viruses that are present from sewage.  Sewage discharged overboard can cause the closure of shellfish beds which people rely on to make a living and feed their families.     

Clean water is essential to protect Florida’s natural resources, economy, and our way of life. Most boaters are environmentally responsible and properly dispose of waste.  Thank you for doing your part and sharing what you have learned to encourage others to "pump it, don't dump it."

Icon for Pumpout Nav app

Download the FREE Pumpout Nav app, to find a public pumpout, mobile pumpout vessel or dump station.

Do you know of a public pumpout missing from the app? Let us know by filling out this survey