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Florida Sea Grant Extension & Education Program

Florida Sea Grant Extension & Education Program

Set Up Your Boat

Choosing the right sewage management system for your boat depends on what works best for you.  When considering your options familiarize yourself with the Laws and Regulations and ask yourself the following:  

  • How often do you use your boat? 
  • How long are the trips you take? 
  • What type of waterways do you boat on?  
  • How many people are usually onboard and how old are they? 
  • Do you or anyone you bring onboard have health conditions that should be taken into consideration? 
  • Do you have the time, funds, and know-how needed to properly install, operate, and maintain the system you’re considering?   
  • Installed Toilet

    Vessels with an installed toilet must have an operable US Coast Guard certified Marine Sanitation Device (MSD).  There are three types of MSDs.   

    • Type I 

      Treatment devise- uses maceration and disinfectants such as chlorine 

      Sewage bacteria count is reduced to less than 1,000 per 100 milliliters, and there are no visible floating solids 

      For vessels 65 feet or less 

      Type II  

      Treatment devise- uses bacteria to break down the solid waste followed by disinfection 

      Sewage bacteria count is reduced to less than 200 per 100 milliliters, and suspended solids are no more than 150 milligrams per liter.  

      For vessels of any size 

      Type III 

      Holding tank- stores untreated sewage onboard 

      Cannot be discharged in state waters. 

      For vessels of any size 

    The Y-valve is part of the MSD system, found on vessels with a type III MSD (holding tank). Depending on your system the Y-vale directs waste to a deck waste fitting for pumpout, to the holding tank, or overboard. Keep your Y-valve in the closed position to prevent overboard discharge.   

    These systems can vary greatly.  Systems can allow for emptying the holding tank only through a pumpout via the deck waste fitting or can include an option for overboard discharge before or after the holding tank or both. Additionally, type III MSDs can be combined with a Type I or Type II MSD. Familiarize yourself with your system.  

    Installed toilets tend to be a bit more complicated, require regular maintenance, pumpouts, and the occasional repair. However, they are also considered the most comfortable, easy to use, and are standard on larger vessels.  

  • Portable Toilets

    These are a simple, convenient, and less expensive sewage management option that require minimal space.  Due to their simple design, there is little maintenance, and it is unlikely to need repairs, saving both time and money.  However, they have a limited capacity for waste so are not ideal for long trips with multiple people.  Portable toilets should be emptied and rinsed at a designated dump station. Alternatively, they can be emptied via a suction wand at a pumpout facility, or into any landside restroom.     

  • Marine Composting Toilets

    Although not as common, the number of boaters opting for a marine composting toilet is on the rise.  These systems are a Type III MSD and considered certified by the US Coast Guard if they meet the following requirement:  

    1. “It is used solely for the storage of sewage and flushwater at ambient air pressure and temperature” and 
    2. “Be designed to prevent the overboard discharge of treated or untreated sewage or any waste derived from sewage (Type III).”  

    Most composting toilets have not been examined by the US Coast Guard. Manufacturers attest that the device meets the above requirement.   

    Watch this video to learn more about Marine Composting Toilets and if they might be right for you.

  • A Bucket

    Although not the most glamorous of options, a bucket is good for ‘emergency’ needs especially when taking short trips with younger children. Just make sure you have a secure lid for it. You can empty the bucket at a designated dump station, into any landside restroom, or via a suction wand at a pumpout facility. Human waste in a bucket is untreated and it is illegal to discharge it overboard within state waters.  

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