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Federal law and Florida Statute 327.53 prohibits discharging raw sewage in all fresh water or within coastal water limits; nine nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico and three nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean.
Sewage from boats contains disease-causing microorganisms that when discharged into waterways can impact the environment as well as human health. Untreated discharge from one weekend boater puts the same amount of bacterial pollution into the water as the treated sewage of 10,000 people. Typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, gastroenteritis and other waterborne diseases can be transmitted through contaminated waters and infected shellfish. Sewage reduces oxygen levels in the water that fish and other aquatic species need to survive. Since the microorganisms within the sewage need oxygen, any discharge into waterways reduces the amount of oxygen available to fish and other aquatic life. Heavy nutrient loads in sewage also promote excessive algae growth preventing life-giving sunlight from reaching subsurface vegetation. Vessel sewage is more concentrated than domestic sewage because people on boats use less volumes of water for sanitary purposes than do people on land. A single boat discharging the contents of its holding tank into the waters of a harbor may pose little human health risk. However, if several hundred boats, on the other hand, are docked in a harbor with a poor flushing rate, and they dump their toilet waste directly overboard, that can present a definite problem.
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