I was contacted by a concerned C-Head owner regarding the recent passage of Georgia House Bill 201 that changes the laws in Georgia in an effort to reduce pollution in the estuarial waters of the ICW along the Georgia coastline. I researched HB 201 and it becomes apparent that the underlying purpose of the law is to control the use of bum boats polluting the scenery more so than the water. I get it. I live on the water and pay the government extra for the privilege. Truth be told, these people don’t produce enough human waste to effect anything, certainly not on the scale of the estuarial waters of Georgia. But toilets are an easy target for solving a problem that has little to do with the toilets. Few people will protest this angle of attack.
But here we have a case of unintended consequences. With respect to pollution, it will probably do the opposite of what is intended as currently written and at the same time, it could make life difficult for anybody who had any toilet system other than a “pump out, holding tank system.” This has been tried before by other local and state governments without success and appears to be quick and dirty, feel good legislation because any half-assed (pun) effort at due diligence would quickly reveal how counter productive HB 201 really is.
I got a call back from the Environmental Protection Department of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, by a very nice young lady and we had a productive conversation. She informed me that the legislation would go before a board that would actually tweak the details of the law and that they were in the process of receiving and processing all the suggestions and complaints about the new laws, and that nothing is currently set in concrete as to how the law will be enforced. It takes effect Jan 1, 2020. I have written an extensive explanation to the House members who were active in the passage of this law and posted it below at the end of this article for anyone to read. I am also posting the email that Ms. Hill sent me so that you can help take action, not only to make sure that they get things right but also to advance the cause of smart waste management on the water. Part of what I call “The Movement” with this blog site. (. . . . oh yeah, I get it!)
America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA) has already gotten the ball rolling on their part and we should all help out. The main thing is to be civil and polite in your responses. Follow the directions on the linked site exactly for the best results. HB 201 is a sincere effort to make things better, just misguided as written. Here is the email I got from the office of the Georgia EPD.
With respect to how HB 201 could effect marine composting toilets, I would point out these facts.
- Marine composting toilets eliminate the need to dump waste illegally and even discourages the practice by making it difficult to do so undetected.
- Restricting boaters to the use of holding tank/pump out systems stifles other environmentally friendly innovation.
- HR 201 forces non-compliant boaters to travel off-shore to avoid Georgia, effecting local businesses and effecting safe passage.
- Requiring a pump out log is an unnecessary burden for boaters and marina pump out facilities and deters little if any of the majority of illegal dumping. Most illegal dumping is due to current waste management systems that offer no alternative.
Hello Mr, Graves,
Thank you for your phone call earlier this week. You can find more information regarding the draft rules for HB201 as well as the public comment period here:
If you would like to provide any comments to be added to the public record please submit those in writing to me at Kelly.email@example.com
Kelly (O’Rourke) Hill
Coastal Resources Specialist
Coastal Resources Division
A division of the
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Here is a revised copy of my letter to the involved members of the Georgia House.
June 25, 2019
Dear Governor Kemp, and Honorable Members of House and Senate of the State of Georgia, and Director and Board Members of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Sandy Graves and I am a veteran, a retired firefighter/paramedic and a former, nine-year liveaboard boater and the designer and manufacturer of the C-Head composting marine toilet. I am writing to you on behalf of liveaboard boaters who traverse the ICW using the estuarial waters of the State of Georgia, and on the behalf of myself, my industry, my company and my employees here at C-Head LLC. We manufacture a state of the art, urine diverting, composting, marine toilet, hereafter revered to as a “UD/C marine toilet.” UD/C marine toilets are designed to eliminate most, if not all the issues regarding pollution of the waterways from sewage dumped by liveaboard and recreational boaters. Our concern is regarding HB 201 Section 1, and its adverse effect on solving the problem of pollution of the waters by careless boaters.
Current urine diverting, composting marine toilets on the market
It can be easily demonstrated that current USCG regulations regarding marine toilets are more than adequate in preventing pollution and allows for innovation in this field, and more importantly includes the expansion of “green” and more effective designs such as UD/C marine toilets. That it is already illegal to dump holding tank sewage into the coastal waters nationwide is enough to induce compliance by the overwhelming majority of boaters. Those few who choose to flaunt the law are of an insignificant number to impact the environment and nothing in HB 201 will change their behavior. What HB 201 will do is cause law-abiding boaters to abandon alternative, more environmentally friendly toilets, that are specifically designed to eliminate illegal dumping because these toilets are now made illegal by this law. What will change direct and indirect offenders’ behavior are toilets and waste management systems that (1) don’t give them any reason to dump overboard and (2) make it difficult to do so.
The marine UD/C marine toilet business (C-Head, Airhead and Nature’s Head) is currently a multi-million-dollar, environmentally oriented, “green” industry. These toilets have come onto the market over the past 15 years and have been demonstrated at boat shows for boaters to study and purchase. Thousands of liveaboard boat owners around the country and in Georgia own and use them today. The recent passage of Georgia HB 201 from its wording has rendered the C-Head (our product) as well as the other UD/C marine toilets illegal to use in the estuarial waters of the State of Georgia. This law effectively halts all liveaboard boater traffic by owners of our toilets that traverse the ICW in Georgia. They are now forced to make passage outside the safety of the ICW due to this law, or face citation and fines. HB 201 also negatively effects the citizens of Georgia who currently use UD/C marine toilets, making them non-compliant with the law.
In addition, the rumors and inquiries regarding the possible illegality of the UD/C marine toilet in Georgia is making its way around on the internet boating discussion forums and meeting places, causing potential damage to the industry and sales of our product nationally and internationally by hinting that our toilets may become illegal more broadly. HB 201 also increases the likelihood of illegal dumping by the absence of our products from your waters. It puts off the important and pressing need to exchange current polluting systems for green technology by causing potential users to avoid UD/C marine toilets as an all-around better solution for managing waste aboard.
HB 201 has a broad effect on all boating along the eastern coast of the United States from Canada down to the islands south of and adjacent to the State of Florida and beyond by creating a choke point for traffic traveling from the North and South through Georgia. If the members involved in the passage of this bill had understood the ramifications of its passage, it is doubtful that they would have passed it as written. This legislation on marine toilets is a disaster for much needed innovation, especially if it spreads to other states.
Boating in general and liveaboard boating specifically faces a unique problem with respect to safe management of “sewage” or “human body wastes and the waste from toilets and other receptacles intended to receive or retain body wastes” as erroneously defined by the Georgia Legislature. The term “sewage” normally implies a liquid mixture of feces, urine and flush water and sometimes chemicals (creating “effluent”) that flows through a “sewage” system of pipes, pumps and containers. This has always been the predominate method used to move and manage waste ashore and by default on board most pleasure craft.
The boating industry has for years foolishly mimicked shore-side waste management methods for which it is not well suited. The recent introduction of the United States Coast Guard approved; UD/C marine toilets has changed that dynamic completely. Use of these toilets is becoming increasingly popular because it both simplifies waste management for the boater (no sewage odor, no use of water and no urgency to empty) and extends their time away from pump out facilities. Most importantly it eliminates the need to evacuate a full holding tank in order to use the toilet. This is a profound change. From a broader aspect, UD/C marine toilets reduce traffic to pump out stations and even the need for so many pump-out stations. It frees state and local law enforcement from spending time tracking down offenders, it frees the government from having to subsidize so many pump-out facilities, and it unburdens marinas and boaters from unnecessary paperwork and contentious legislation.
Why do law-abiding boaters break the law?
The perfect analogy for this pollution dilemma is “the unstoppable force meets the immovable object.” Having to use the toilet is an unstoppable force of nature. Pass all the laws you want but as everyone knows, when people “gotta go, they gotta go!” A full holding tank is the immovable object, based on current laws. If you cannot empty the holding tank as needed, you cannot use the toilet. Laws solves nothing because the crew still must and will use the toilet and take the necessary measures to do so, including occasional illegal dumping. Most of the incidents of deliberate dumping of holding tanks comes directly from this issue.
The holding tank system offers no other alternatives. To use the toilet with a full holding tank, some of the waste must be removed (dumped) some way or other to make room for new sewage. Illegal dumping also doesn’t prevent the offender from using a pump out station regularly just to keep his ship’s log tidy and up to date as required. And conversely, nor does a pump out log even slightly prevent the boater from dumping illegally, if he must or chooses to. If a boater becomes immobilized for whatever reason, (weather, mechanics, inconvenience, etc.) and cannot travel to a pump out station or if he arrives at a pump out station that is “out of service” and his holding tank is full, he will most likely dump some or all of his holding tank surreptitiously. Any honest liveaboard boater can vouch that they are aware of this problem. When forced to break the law, a pinch is as good as a pound, so the offender may dump most or all the contents in anticipation of difficulties locating another pump out station the next day.
So, the best way to address this problem is to remove the incentive or need to pump out or dump rather than pass complex laws that are difficult and expensive to enforce and are ineffective and impractical.
How do urine diverting, composting marine toilets remove the incentive to dump illegally?
The overwhelming majority of liveaboard boaters do not want to dump their sewage into the water, even offshore where it is legal. They know they are fouling their playground when they do. Create a situation where they are not forced to dump their tank and they won’t. This is done by redesigning the whole system to eliminate any urgency and one that allows continued, unrestricted use of the toilet independent of the amount of waste onboard. It can be done several ways; by removing the holding tank completely and allowing direct discharge overboard (unacceptable), or by collecting it in portable containers, or increasing the usability of the existing holding tank’s fixed volume and limiting it to the collection of urine only.
Most holding tanks are pitifully inadequate in size to hold much “sewage”. They are purposefully small because on a boat space is at a premium, especially a sailboat. The average holding tank will last for about 3 days for a small crew before it needs to be emptied. This generates an ongoing problem with having to empty the holding tank every third day which is to say frequently, and this inconvenience often guides the travel plans of the boater. The UD/C marine toilet will normally last a week to several weeks before it needs to be emptied and then the contents can be easily stored aboard indefinitely, unobtrusively and innocuously before it is taken home and composted, incinerated, buried or disposed of.
The C-Head information blog site and instructions provide users with easy, “green” solutions for disposing of their waste. Eventually, with greater acceptance, I expect marinas to provide systems for disposal of the solid waste from composting toilets. It can be something as simple and inexpensive as a dedicated dumpster where it is then transported to a landfill for composting or incineration. The solid waste contents of the urine diverting toilet is processed with a dry, carbon based, desiccating medium such as coco coir, peat moss or wood shavings, that can be easily dried and processed and does not generate a sewage smell at any stage of the process.
With the C-Head, the urine can be transferred with little or no flush water into the existing holding tank increasing the holding tank’s capacity from 3 days to 2-3 weeks because the urine is concentrated. This creates a far greater window of opportunity to find a pump out station than does a sewage holding tank system. Any accidental spillage of the urine while pumping out would frankly have no effect on the environment since it doesn’t contain pathogens. The nitrogen in the urine will only effect small, contained, stagnant ponds of water negatively, not broad estuarial waters or any water that is even slightly moving. The fecal count in urine is zero which is far below accepted levels for legal discharge by the United States Coast Guard. Urine collected by a non-proprietary jug or proprietary canister that comes with the UD/C marine toilet can be easily carried anywhere ashore and dumped into any shoreside toilet facility when it is convenient for the boater to do so. Toilets as you know are found everywhere not just at specific locations like pump out stations.
Georgia HB 201 is not only poor legislation, it is potentially dangerous legislation. It puts lives at risk by forcing liveaboard boaters who use UD/C marine toilets to avoid that stretch of the ICW and instead run offshore to make passage. It gives the citizens of Georgia the false sense that something positive is being done when in reality, HB 201 supports a system that is the worst polluting system of all, short of direct overboard discharge. It hurts Georgia businesses along that stretch of the coast because boaters will avoid it. It hurts the UD/C marine toilet industry and their employees. And worst of all, it stifles innovation towards creating green solutions for removing and resolving the problems facing waste management in the boating world.
What can the Georgia government do to fix this problem?
Per the Georgia Legislature, the stated purpose of the law is:
“for the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare to prohibit the discharge of sewage from such vessels into estuarine areas of this state.* It is declared to be the intent of the General Assembly to protect and enhance the quality of the waters of such estuarine areas by requiring greater environmental protection than is provided pursuant to Section 312 of the federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, such that any discharge of sewage from a live-aboard vessel into the waters of such estuarine areas shall be prohibited.”
The missing text of this law should read as follows:
*“And for the promotion of new, more environmentally oriented designs that by their design and nature also encourage less pollution.”
True Effect – The law supports the existence of the status quo holding tank systems which are not suited to pleasure craft and are a huge polluter of the environment both purposeful and accidental. It also not only discourages innovation but makes no allowances for the introduction of new “green” technologies and innovations such as the urine diverting, composting marine toilet, that is much more effective in removing the incentive to pollute and thereby preventing pollution.
HB 201 – It shall be unlawful to operate or float any live-aboard vessel within the estuarine areas of this state, whether anchored in an anchorage area or at an eligible facility, which has located within or on such vessel a Type I, Type II, or Type III Marine Sanitation Device, as defined in 33 C.F.R. 159, unless such device has a secured mechanism which is constructed and installed in such a manner that it can be emptied only by pumping out* to prevent discharge of treated and untreated sewage or is equipped with a holding tank, as such term is defined in Code Section 52-7-3. Examples of secured mechanisms considered to be effective at preventing discharges include, but are not limited to, closing the seacock and padlocking, using a non-releasable wire tie, or removing the seacock handle with the seacock in the closed position.
True Effect – Urine diverting composting marine toilets do not create “sewage” as the term is commonly used, which is needed for a pump out system to work. This makes them illegal in the State of Georgia. This decision is based on the false assumption that waste must be managed in an “effluent” state like that of shore-side waste management systems. It is the “effluent” state of the waste that creates the conditions that facilitate and promote illegal dumping.
The missing text of this law should read as follows:
*“or processes and manages human waste using currently accepted composting marine toilet technologies that meet USCG standards as MSD type marine toilets”
HB 201 – Persons operating or floating live-aboard vessels with marine toilets and subject to the requirements of this Code section shall create and maintain for at least one year after creation records which indicate the name and location of pump-out facilities used and the dates of such use. Persons who own or operate pump-out facilities shall also create a record and maintain, for at least one year after creation, records which indicate the name and vessel registration number, the date of pump-out, and verification of pump-out for each vessel for which pump-out services are performed.
True Effect – This is ineffective, feel-good legislation. Logs don’t prevent the reason for this type of pollution. Most people only pollute when they are forced to and the reason they pollute is because their holding tanks are full of waste and they can’t use the toilet, and it is inconvenient or impossible to find a pump out station in a timely manner. This legislation promotes pollution by restricting new and better technologies that do not need pump out services to function and that would reduce pollution measurably.
A brief description of how UD/C marine toilets work.
UD/C marine toilets divide the urine from the feces at the point of use. The urine is collected in an undiluted form in a container for disposal ashore or in a holding tank to be discarded later using a pump out station. No overboard thru-hull ports are needed and are often eliminated by the boat owner for safety reasons. The solid waste is then processed by mixing it with a dry medium that removes the commonly recognized foul odor associated with feces. This then can be emptied into a storage container such as a common 5-gallon plastic bucket for storage on board until it can be taken ashore and disposed of.
In the future, UD/C marine toilets will be embraced as the toilet of choice by pleasure boats, as is clearly being shown in the marketplace today. Holding tank systems should and will be viewed with suspicion because they make illegal dumping so easy and clandestine. Illegal dumping using a UD/C marine toilet requires the user to go on deck in full view to dump their waste overboard. Solid waste from a composting toilet is very buoyant leaving a marked trail of incriminating evidence behind on the water’s surface, creating a huge disincentive to act in this way. But most importantly, UD/C marine toilets create no need to do this at all and that is the primary reason for user compliance.
I hope you will give this your full consideration to the extent you can influence or alter the actions of the Department of Natural Resources or amend this statute. Repairing HB 201 will benefit everyone. Please let us know what we can do to help correct this unfortunate situation. I will gladly meet with and demonstrate or speak with any concerned members of the government that can help us resolve this urgent problem. More information can be found on my website www.c-head.com or on my blog site www.c-headsmartandsimple.com Thank you.
Sanford (Sandy) L. Graves Jr.
Please feel free to send a link of this page (link) to anyone you may think is interested in this topic and encourage them to take action. And please feel free to comment below.
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