September 23, 2014

Pump Out Program

The Soundkeeper boat pumpout program kicks off Memorial Day every summer. Our four-pumpout boats provide free pumpouts for recreational vessels in most areas between Byram River in Greenwich and the Saugatuck River in Westport, Connecticut, and in Mamaroneck, New York. Our boats are on the water from May through October.

Soundkeeper’s free service is generously supported by a grant from the Federal Clean Vessel Act, which is administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, CT Department of Environmental Protection and NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. The remainder of the program costs (25%!) are supported with funds from our membership and other generous donors. Our “clean boating” education and outreach activities are supported by the CT Department of Environmental Protection.

Additional support for the pumpout program has been provided by the following sources:

  • Woman’s Seamen’s Friend Society of Connecticut, Inc.
  • Northeast Utilities
  • Keyspan Energy
  • Beacon Point Marine, Greenwich, CT
  • Brewer’s Yacht Haven, Stamford, CT
  • City of Stamford, CT
  • Town of Greenwich, CT
  • Town of Westport, CT
  • Village of Mamaroneck

John J. Giddings, a member of the Captain Harbor Power Squadron in Greenwich, CT wrote an article for the Squadron’s newletter “Harbor Light”, in which he documented the following exchange with Soundkeeper pumpout boat operator Jim McCullough over VHF Channel 77:

Blue Canute: “Soundkeeper, Soundkeeper this is Blue Canute.”

Jim: “Blue Canute this is Soundkeeper. How can I help you?”

BC: “Soundkeeper, I’m at [marina, pier, slip #]. Is it possible to get a pumpout?”

Jim: “Blue Canute, I’ll be there in 7 to 10 minutes.”

John reported that a few minutes later Jim arrived and in a very quick and easy operation his holding tank was emptied. He concluded, “Thanks to Soundkeeper there is no excuse not to use our holding tank.”

For more detailed information about pumpout locations in Long Island Sound: http://dep.state.ct.us/olisp/cva/cva.htm

Does Sewage Dumping Have an Impact?

Several scientific studies conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency in Newport Harbor and Avalon Harbor, CA, and Puget Sound, WA, have shown that sewage discharge from boats in an area with little tidal flushing contributes to the degradation of shellfishing beds and swimming areas. A boat cruising offshore at five knots, discharging a 20-gallon holding tank at a three-gallon-per-minute pump rate, poses an extremely low health risk or risk of environmental harm. A flotilla of boats congregated in a harbor or inlet that dump toilet waste, however, can pose a risk to nearby swimmers or contaminate shellfish beds.

A typical 20-gallon capacity holding tank can contain several thousand fecal coliform organisms per 3 ounces of water, as compared to the legal discharge limit of 200 coliforms per 3 ounces of water for a municipal sewage treatment plant. Fecal coliform is a bacteria that comprises approximately 25% of fecal matter, and is a standard indicator for the presence of disease causing organisms in marine and fresh waters. According to the USEPA, dumping a single 20-gallon waste holding tank has the same impact as discharging several thousand gallons of sewage from an efficiently run sewage treatment plant. Even though a treatment plant discharge is less concentrated, the total amount of sewage is far greater than boat waste. The point is that a concentrated pulse of waste from a number of boats at one location can cause significant concentrations of fecal matter in a poorly flushed inlet or harbor. Health standards require that shellfish beds be closed when the fecal coliform bacteria count in marine waters reaches 14 coliforms per 3 ounces of water.