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Indiana Natural Resources Commission

NRC > Lake Michigan & Other Navigable Waters > Indiana Boating Laws > Vessel Sanitation Vessel Sanitation

Federal and state laws prohibit the disposal of raw sewage from vessels into Lake Michigan and its tributaries. These laws have been enacted to protect human health and the environment, but they are difficult to enforce and depend largely upon voluntary compliance by the boating public.

Each year some public beaches along the Indiana coastline of Lake Michigan must be closed due to bacterial contamination. Although the sources of the contamination are not fully understood, there are concerns that improper marine sanitation practices may contribute.

The federal Clean Vessels Act is one recent effort designed to make pumpout stations more accessible to boaters. The program is administered in Indiana by the Department of Environmental Management. Through this program, matching funding is provided to marina operators to develop new pumpout facilities or upgrade existing facilities. For more information, see the Clean Vessel Act Grant Program.

The Indiana Clean Marina Program is a collaborative effort by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, marinas and recreational boaters.  The goal is to help protect our state’s inland and coastal waterways by reducing the potential adverse environmental impacts associated with marinas and recreational boating.  Technical assistance and guidance are provided to marinas and recreational boaters.  By participating in this voluntary program, marinas, boatyards, yacht clubs, and recreational boaters can be recognized for environmental stewardship.  Development of the Indiana Clean Marina Program was made possible with financial assistance to the Lake Michigan Coastal Program from the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Boaters with holding tanks on their vessels are reminded to dispose of sewage properly at pumpout stations. Type I and Type II marine sanitation devices may be used on some Indiana waters, including Lake Michigan, but only if they are in good working order and operated according to specifications. For a listing of Indiana waterways on which properly functioning Type I and Type II marine sanitation devices can be lawfully used, please see the Nonrule Policy Document Type I and Type II Marine Sanitation Devices on Navigable Waters of Indiana.

Your help is essential to good water quality for ourselves and our children.