BVI News

Stop boats from pumping human waste in bays, lawmakers told

This vessel disposes of human waste in open sea. (Google image)

By Esther Durand, BVI News Journalist

Local stakeholders have made renewed calls for laws that will prohibit vessels from pumping untreated human waste near beaches in the British Virgin Islands.

Presently, there are no direct laws in the territory dealing with the issue except a section of the Fisheries Act, which states that harmful and poisonous pollutants are not allowed in any fresh estuarine of fishery waters in the BVI.

Bishop John Cline and Second District Representative Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull raised the issue at a tourism stakeholder’s meeting in Cane Garden Bay recently.

“These yachts are still allowed to pump raw sewerage in the harbour and this law needs to be addressed. They cannot do it in St Thomas. It is illegal and they can get fined. They should not be allowed to do it in the BVI,” Cline said.

Turnbull agreed.

“I have raised it since becoming elected,” the first-term legislator said; adding that the BVI Tourist Board has also joined his campaign to amend the law.

Issue not major

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Charter Yacht Society (CYS) Ruth Ross told BVI News the issue is not major.

“It is a very small amount of effluent dumped into a very large body of water. And I think there is a much greater problem from our point of view of effluent being pumped from land into the bays such as Cane Garden Bay,” Ross said.

She said only a few yachts currently utilize the bays.

With that argument, she stated: “It is just not feasible that it would cause any water quality issues.”


Ross said when the issue surfaced a few years ago, local stakeholders met with the government and formulated a response that the CYS still supports.

According to the document, sewerage discharged from yachts causes a serious ‘aesthetic’ problem in enclosed anchorage areas.

The discharge also causes health and environmental damage. But numerous studies have found this to be comparatively minimal.

Sewerage discharged from yachts in open waters, by contrast, does not cause problems any more than waste from other forms of life which exist in the sea, the document said.

According to the document: “There are no easy answers. At present, there are four ways to deal with yacht-generated sewerage: management, treatment, natural degradation, and land discharge.”


This option requires holding tanks as well as enforcing ‘no dumping’ prohibitions in enclosed anchorages and other swimmer-intensive areas. Yachts, therefore, would be required to discharge the sewerage accumulated in their holding tanks into the open sea; away from shore, where it does not cause problems.


Treatment consists of using one of the proprietary onboard treatment systems for yachts, whereby sewerage is treated to a level roughly equivalent to land treatment plants, and then immediately discharged into the ocean.

Natural degradation

Natural degradation may be the long-term solution for both marine and land toilets.

In these systems — also known as composting toilets — urine is separated from solid waste, which undergoes the natural process of composting. Every few weeks, or perhaps once per month depending upon the frequency of use, the ash-like compost produced is either used in gardens or simply thrown in the garbage.

Land discharge

Land discharge involves storing waste then discharging it ashore by using pump-out stations.

A variation would be to have pump-out stations aboard barges, which would then treat the waste, bring it ashore, or dump it offshore.

Of the 900 charter boats believed to be in the territory, there are only a few on-land pump-out stations.

CYS said it feels most ‘comfortable’ in endorsing and supporting the ‘management’ solution.

“The majority of our member yachts have holding tanks already installed, and most already use them in bays and anchorages and discharge in the channel,” CYS said in the aforementioned document.

Enforcing law would be hard

According to the Department of Conservation and Fisheries, even if there were laws, actual enforcement would pose a challenge on the water.

The BVI has been widely acclaimed to be a paradise for marine lovers, with many marinas and vessels visiting on a daily basis.

However, persons could be fined up to $1,000 if evidence can be produced to support a formal complaint that boaters dispose of their waste closer to land.

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  1. Hmm says:

    This is bad press they really out to destroy the BVI and its people first offshore finance now tourism. Government is weak.

  2. rastarite says:

    Yachts are not causing an issue. Land based effluent and run-off from building sites and excavation the bigger issue

    • Sam the man says:

      I agree rastarite – however he needs to sort out his own back yard and the recently much polluted CGB which had to be closed for bathing due to contamination. Sort out the sewage problems at CGB first. Yes the Government is weak we all know that for sure but we have to make them accountable….

  3. Really?! says:

    Are you f***king serious?! No wonder the d*mn seaweed them sticking up the place because they’re polluting the water.

    • vick says:

      the seaweed you are talking about is coming from amazonie so nothing to do with waste.

      • Rubber Duck says:

        Sargassum weed. It comes from the Sargasso Sea a thousand miles off to the North East

        • @ Rubber Duck @Vick says:

          The sargassum we’re getting in the Caribbean is from a ‘new’ sargassum sea (of sorts) off Brazil, in the northern South American Atlantic. It is caused by agricultural waste; synthetic fertilizers that wash out through the Amazon.

  4. Hmm says:

    What if they just wait till night time to dump? But then again tank levelz can be measured before and after boats are used. Any variation can lead tp a fine if not properly disposed

  5. sailor says:


  6. Unhappy!! says:

    All of Road Town’s sewage is pumped out into the channel off of Slaney Point. The sewage treatment plant on Road Reef hasn’t worked since shortly after the hand over three years or so ago from Bi-Water. For our government representatives to say the issue is the charter boats is grossly hypocritical or shows a shocking lack of understanding of the their own infrastructure.

    • Devon says:

      You are correct… I see it pumped out at Slaney point too.. then it drifts West to the Sea Cows Bay Desalination Plant !!

  7. Slick says:

    No infrastructure here, that is the problem not the yachts. BVI is terrible on the environment.

  8. Jane says:

    Yachts shouldnt be pumping out. It may not have such a significant impact as land-based sewerage being discharged but it has an impact. Yes we need to sort out the big problem but that doesnt mean we cannot also sort out the littler problem. This intransigence is killing the BVI.

    • Yep says:

      What do you propose they do? There is one pump out station in the territory. Boats need to pump out every day. It takes over 30 minutes each time.

  9. nick says:

    where are the pumping stations?.

  10. See says:

    Raw sewage and runoff from the crappy roads and homesites bring a hundred times more pollution than the charter boats . The lack of knowledge is beyond amazing . 6 sewage trucks a day pumping in Roadtown and that goes directly into the sea . Fix your sewage plants . Dont disagree about boats not being allowed to dump crap but at least focus on the bigger culptits .

    • Reality says:

      Yep it’s amazing how ignorant people in authority are they just haven’t a F…ing clue about what the real issues are they are just easily led….where are the real leaders with passion, intellect,drive and a make it happen attitude….? v sad…please someone step up to the plate we need you desperately! 8 months on the place is still a disaster zone and the next hurricane season is just around the corner…

  11. Mysterious says:

    So just asking where does all the cruse ships dump their waste?

  12. Lol says:

    In yah moutz

  13. E. Leonard says:

    The sea is a vital environmental resource and a major draw for both land and marine tourism; tourism is 1/2 of the VI economic twin pillar; financial services, the other. Financial services generates approximately 60% of national income but it is in the crosshairs of external agencies, ie, recent legislation by the House of Common requiring OTs to establish register of beneficial ownership may pose a serious risk to the industry. As such, the tourism industry needs to be protected, improved and expanded; the economy needs to be diversified. Consequently, the sea a major tourism draw must be protected.

    Protecting and caring for the sea should be a national priority. Raw sewage should not be discharge/dump along beaches and coastal areas. Raw sewage has high level of bacteria that contaminate the sea and pose a serious risk to human health, especially children, elderly and persons with compromised immune systems. Contaminated sea water can adversely impact its beneficial uses, ie, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, diving, boating……..etc.

    Further, contaminated waters can contaminate marine food sources, a popular and vital local food source, ie, fish, whelks, conchs, turtle…….etc. Additionally, contaminated waters impact the ecosystem,resulting in algae bloom. Undoubtedly, dumping of raw sewage from both land and vessels must be effectively managed. Action?

    Ideally, yachts and other vessels should be required to have holding tanks, prevent dumping of effluent along beaches/coastal areas unless effluent is treated to a safe level, invest in pump out stations at strategic locations, construct, operate and maintain sewage treatment plants ashore; dump raw sewage into open waters (Atlantic Ocean),……..etc. Safe, quality/quantity and effective management of waste water is a First World expectation, quality of life and standard of living.

  14. Phoenix says:

    The first time CGB was closed due to sewerage was 8 December. That was the week before the first cruise ship arrived and 4 days before the first charter companies reopened, the Moorings/Sunsail.

  15. Ross Loss? says:

    … lady Ross say its not a major problem!………. WHOO TH HIRED SHEE? because if she saying that, then her — dont need to be there

  16. Mcgyver says:

    Someone in the AREA needs to make some SERIOUS MONEY, Put into Operation vessels, designed just for remote pumping out the problematic vessels, Large radio numbers and obvious colors to be identified at long range.,(or offering the option to pumpout) And then doing the proper disposal of said,. bio waste. The need is there… the answer is there… the money is there… and most of all,,, the REASON is there. Come on…. Let’s make it Happen!!

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