Below are some of the more frequently asked questions about pumpouts and the Michigan Boating Pumpout Grant Program.

Pumpout FAQs

Why have a pumpout at my marina?

With more than 3,000 miles of coastline across four Great Lakes, Michigan has some of the best waters for boating of any state in the country. To protect these waterways — whether for drinking water, employment, or the many species that call them home — most of the Great Lakes and associated waterways are designated No-Discharge Zones, which means that discharging boating sewage is illegal. This discharge poses a direct threat to human health for those who drink contaminated water or consume seafood from it. Pumpout stations are present at many marinas around the country to ensure clean water and provide a service to boaters. 

What is the law regarding No-Discharge Zones in the Great Lakes?

Depending on your Marine Sanitation Device (MSD), you may have an onboard treatment system that allows you to safely discharge waste. However, most of the waters in the Great Lakes surrounding the state of Michigan are official No-Discharge Zones. This means that even if your MSD treats sewage before you discharge it, it is still illegal to discharge in the water, and boats must hold onto their sewage until they can properly dispose of it at pumpout or dump stations. 

What are pumpouts and how do they work?

Pumpout stations are machines that pull sewage from a boater’s waste holding tank. Pumping out itself is easy. To pump out, a boater connects a hose from the station to the tank opening on the boat deck. When the pump is turned on, it draws waste out of the boat’s holding tank, through the pump, and into sewer lines under the dock. These lines are then connected to municipal sewer or septic systems where the water is treated normally.

What are the different types of marine sewage devices?

Section 312 of the Clean Water Act requires any boating vessel with an installed toilet and operating on U.S. waters to have an installed MSD. MSDs are devices that receive, retain, possibly treat, and discharge onboard waste to be disposed of at a later time. Broadly, there are three types of Coast Guard approved MSDs:

  • Type I devices treat sewage so that the sewage can be discharged from the vessel in waters (though not in No-Discharge Zones)
  • Type II devices are similar, but the treatment methods involve a biological component and are generally more effective treatment devices.
  • Type III devices do not treat sewage and must hold for disposal at a pumpout or beyond the mile offshore limit.

The type of MSD you can install on your vessel is partly restricted by your vessel’s size. Boats greater than 65 feet must install a Type II or III MSD, and those smaller may install any of Types I, II, or III. It may also make sense for smaller watercraft to install portable toilets with self-contained holding tanks, which must be emptied at pumpout stations. However, as the Great Lakes are No-Discharge Zones, even MSDs that treat sewage are required to dispose of it in a pumpout station.

What type of pumpout should I install?

Several main types of pumpout stations are available: stationary pumpout stations, mobile pumpout stations, remote operated multi-station systems, and dump stations. Many states have begun funding mobile pumpout boats as well. The exact station best for your marina is a subjective judgement and difficult to discuss here. See Additional Resources below for more information on the different types of pumpouts.

How much does it cost to pumpout?

Pumpouts constructed from grants made under this grant program are required to charge no more than $5 per pumpout. Privately financed pumpout stations or boats charge rates at the discretion of the owner.

Where can I find pumpout locations in Michigan?

On our map.

What is the Clean Vessel Act?

Congress passed the Clean Vessel Act in 1992 to increase the number of onshore sewage disposal facilities in waters frequented by recreational boats, with the primary goal of reducing overboard discharge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disperses funds to the state from taxes paid on fishing tackle and motor-boat fuels under the Federal Aid in Sport Fishing Restoration Program, also called Wallop-Breaux funds.

In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the administration of these funds, providing them to marinas to fund the construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of pumpout stations, as well as floating restrooms, pump and dump stations, and similar boating sewage machines. The Michigan Boating Pumpout Grant Program has since been reauthorized into the future and has contributed to the construction of over 50 pumpouts in Michigan. 

Is this program related to the Clean Marina program?

Sort of! Michigan Sea Grant also administers the Michigan Clean Marina program, which is a voluntary program in which marinas pledge to maintain and improve Michigan’s waterways by reducing or eliminating releases of harmful substances and phasing out practices that can damage aquatic environments. For more info on the Clean Marina program, visit this link.

Grant FAQs

What type of facility is eligible for funding?

All marinas, public or private, are eligible as long as they are in the state of Michigan and allow reasonable access to the public for the use of the pumpout. For more information, please see the Handbook.

What projects are eligible for funding?

Construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of pumpout and dump stations including floating restrooms used solely by boaters and education/information programs to educate/inform recreational boaters about environmental pollution resulting from sewage discharges from vessels. For more information, please see the Handbook.

What types of costs are eligible?

Examples of eligible costs include engineering, costs of equipment, signage providing instruction and directions to the pumpouts, labor, shipping costs, maintenance and operation for the life of the grant, sewer hook-up costs, and upgrades to existing equipment, just to name a few. For more information, please see the Handbook.

What expenditures are ineligible for reimbursement?

Expenses ineligible for reimbursement through this grant program include but are not limited to: legal fees, onsite sewage treatment plants, enforcement activities, construction/renovation of upland restroom facilities, costs incurred prior to entering into a contract with state of Michigan, and any project or activity that does not provide public benefit.

Does the grant cover 100% of project costs?

No, this grant program will cover 75% of the total costs of eligible project expenses; the remaining 25% of costs need to be provided by the marina through matching funds. The matching funds provided by the marina can be either through cash or “in-kind” services such as labor. In-kind services must be documented through, for example, timesheets.

Are any specific regions targeted for funding?

Any area underserved by nearby pumpouts will be prioritized for construction projects. Additional factors such as sensitive ecological zones and those home to threatened or endangered species are also desirable.

How much money is available for grants?

The total amount of money available through this program varies from year to year. The amount available for an individual project varies as well and is based on several factors, including the merits of the application. 

Can I get funding for a pumpout I’ve already built at my marina?

No—grant terms must be agreed to in advance of the construction of the project (except as indicated under prior approved costs). Work cannot begin until a contract is signed with the state.

How long does it take before I receive grant funding?

It can take up to 3 to 6 months from initial approval by Michigan DNR for a marina to receive funds. In addition, this is a reimbursement grant, which means that marinas will be reimbursed for expenses after they are incurred under the terms of their contract with the state. Once work is complete, the marina will submit for reimbursement with supporting paperwork. 

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for submissions is typically one month after the program is opened to applications.

How are grant projects selected?

Approval of applications will be based on the type of marine sewage disposal facility proposed, geographic location, number of boats served, and cost of the facility. Greater priority will be given to projects that provide increased access to pumpouts and dump stations, taking into account cost considerations to provide the highest benefit for the monies spent.

Who should I contact if I have more questions?

Additional questions should be directed to: 

  • Chip Kosloski, MDNR Grants Management Section, Finance and Operations Division, Clean Vessel Act Program Manager, KosloskiC3@Michigan.gov
  • Elizabeth Striano, Michigan Sea Grant, Communications Lead, estriano@umich.edu

Additional Resources