Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Richard Burroughs


Federal legislation regulating sewage from recreational boats has existed since 1972 (The Clean Water Act). Since that time the regulations have failed to prevent untreated sewage from boats from being discharged into the Nation's waterways. This has caused conflicts over water quality, particularly in shellfish growing areas.

The regulatory system which exists to regulate sewage from recreational boats was analyzed for nine sources of possible regulatory failure. Seven of the nine were found to be operating. They include: lack of technology, lack of enforcement, lack of issue salience, negative attitudes on the part of the boaters, the economics of compliance, conflicting interest groups, and administrative errors.

At the time the regulations were promulgated several other regulatory options were available to the implementing agency. Seven of these options, ranging from no federal regulations to strict controls on boat numbers were analyzed for their potential effectiveness. To achieve the goal of improved water quality, mandating only type I marine sanitation devices, or only type III marine sanitation devices could have been more effective than the current regulations. Questions of implementation still must be addressed. Eliminating regulations for boats less than 65 feet in length would be the easiest to implement, but ignores water quality issues. Opting to use a strict formula method resolves some of the water quality issues and implementation problems. Other options, mixing state and federal responsibility, would be equally ineffective or worse than the current system in protecting water quality.

The lack of effective federal regulations resulted in the use of a standard formula (Food and Drug Administration) by state shellfish sanitation officials. This formula limits boat numbers based upon predicted sewage loads using several assumptions. Data from a mail-return survey and shoreside observations of Rhode Island boaters administered during the summer, 1988, were used to modify the occupancy rate assumptions of the standard formula. Occupancy rates ranging from 27% to 100% were used depending on boatlengths and the site in question. Two formula modifications were generated. Allowable boat numbers in three Rhode Island harbors were calculated. In Dutch Island harbor 7 4 boats would be allowed by the formula, 144 boats by modification one, and up to 245 by modification two. The maximum number generated by modification two can be used only when all boats are less than 25 feet in length. On a peak weekend 103 boats were observed in this harbor. Newport harbor has an allowable boat count of 1922, 3768 by modification one, and up to 6405 by modification two. There were 1592 boats present on a peak weekend. The Great Salt Pond (Block Island) would be allowed 445 boats by the formula, 872 by modification one, and up to 1482 by modification two. There were 1587 boats present. The modified formula uses more data on boat use and is thus more reflective of the sewage loads entering RI waters. Further information would increase its accuracy.



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