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Policy Statement 286 - Waste Disposal in Ocean and Coastal Waters


Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on December 12, 2017 
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports:

  • Continued enforcement of the statutes regulating the disposal of wastes into ocean and coastal waters, especially the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA).
  • Continued research of the long-term impact of waste disposal on ocean and coastal waters.
  • Updated regulations based on research, directing the quality and limiting the quantity of waste dumping and municipal sewage discharges in ocean and coastal waters to levels that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
  • Cooperation with international programs for limiting waste disposal in coastal waters.


There are raising concerns about the costs and environmental consequences associated with ocean disposal of solid and liquid wastes and treated wastewater, include the impact of floating solid waste islands and plastics, and the reduction in near shore salinity. These concerns have lead to increasing restrictions on marine disposal. 


Ocean and coastal waters provide vast resources of enormous ecological and economic value. In the past, disposal of large quantities of wastes in ocean and coastal waters was practiced without adequate knowledge of the fate of these wastes and their effect on the marine environment. Waste dumping has been indiscriminate and has resulted in incidents of marine pollution and poisoning of marine biota with chemicals that can ultimately be toxic to humans. Bacterial contamination has resulted in an increase in the number of incidences of beach closures, infections in marine wildlife, and suspensions of harvesting from shellfish beds. Freshwater discharges for treated wastewater facilities are changing the salinity and ecosystems of near shore aquatic communities.

In order to develop adequate marine management programs, continued research is required on the fate of pollutants and chemicals introduced into these waters. This includes monitoring of ocean environments and coastal modeling. In addition, more research is recommended for effective sustainable methods of reducing the quantity of waste and wastewater being disposed in coastal and ocean water environments.

ASCE Policy Statement 286
First Approved in 1982