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THE time has long passed for the marine environment or for the public to tolerate the dumping of sewage into Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Lake Union and the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency should act on a request by the state Department of Ecology, the state Department of Health and the Puget Sound Partnership to prohibit dumping of sewage in these waterways.

Not only have the number of discharge stations increased around Puget Sound, the availability of sizable grants to build these stations has also grown.

Recreational and commercial vessels can pump out and dispose of human waste into facilities connected to sewer lines, septic tanks or holding tanks until it is hauled away. Mobile, floating units go to where the boats are.

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More and more options exist — or could exist — at public and working marinas.

Citing the competition for use by thousands of pleasure boats is not an argument for prohibiting the dumping of partially treated sewage within three miles of shore. The numbers only make the point about the volumes and hazards that exist.

Marine sanitary devices are hardly pristine treatment plants. All the technical numbers about colony-forming units of fecal coliform bacteria work against vessel owners. The discharge ratings are vastly beyond any tolerable levels for shellfish beds or public recreation areas.

The state Department of Ecology is now collecting comments on a Draft Petition to Designate the Waters of Puget Sound as a No Discharge Zone. The comment period is open into April.

A final version will go to the EPA, which would start its own review process.

If this issue were about pollution of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, consider this as long after the fire had broken out. The marine-discharge issue cannot be diluted. The problem and the remedy are both well-known.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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