TOMS RIVER – With Memorial Day weekend just days away, Ocean County is preparing to launch its pumpout boat program to assure a clean Barnegat Bay during the boating season.
“People can still get out on the water,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is liaison to the popular environmental program. “While there will be new protocols in place for our boat captains and social distancing requirements for boaters due to the coronavirus pandemic, we still need to make sure we protect our waterways and provide boaters with a means to properly dispose onboard wastewater.
“This summer we will be stressing more than ever the importance of safety for our captains and the boaters,” Vicari said. “It’s still remains imperative that we do all we can to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, but we also know people want to get out of the house and back on the water.”
The pumpout boats are specially equipped vessels capable of emptying the on-board toilets and tanks of other boats, keeping waste from entering the bay. The boats are available to provide the pumpout service on weekends starting Memorial Day weekend running through October.
To request a pumpout, the boats can be contacted on VHF radio channel 9, or by contacting the captains by cell phone. The contact numbers for the captains can be found on the program’s website at www.planning.co.ocean.nj.us/frmEPPumpoutBoats. Boaters are also encouraged to like the pumpout program’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pumpoutoceancounty for up to date announcements and contact information.
Earlier this year, Ocean County renewed its shared service agreements with Brick Township, Seaside Park, the Tuckerton Seaport and the Ocean County Utilities Authority to provide the pumpout boat program, now in its 23rd year.
“Since the program began in 1997, more than 90,000 recreational boats have been serviced and about 1.9 million gallons of effluent have been removed from vessels that could otherwise have ended up in the Barnegat Bay” Vicari said. “This is a major step towards ensuring that our coastal waters, such as the Barnegat Bay and the Little Egg Harbor, remain clean.”
There are now six full-time pumpout boats operating in the Barnegat Bay and the Little Egg Harbor, in addition to the Circle of Life which was the first pumpout boat in New Jersey and continues to be operated as a part-time back-up boat and during the peak season.
“With miles and miles of waterways to enjoy, Ocean County operates the largest pumpout boat program in the state,” Vicari said.
The fleet includes the Bay Saver and Bay Defender, operated by Brick Township; the Pollution Solution, Water Warrior, and Circle of Life, operated by Seaside Park; and the Waste Watcher II and the Bay Sweeper, operated by the Tuckerton Seaport. The County also participates on the New Jersey State Clean Vessel Act Advisory Committee and works with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Barnegat Bay Estuary Program and other partners towards the goal of a healthy Barnegat Bay.
“The success of this program rests with the partnerships we have and also the dedication of the captains,” Vicari said. “No one knows more about our waterways than the people who captain these boats.”
New protocols for the pumpout boat captains include: the captains are to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from other boaters; the boat owner should use their boat hook to retrieve the nozzle from the pumpout captain; once the pumpout is complete, the boat owner would drop the nozzle in the water to be retrieved by the pumpout boat captain. Nozzles are to be cleaned with disinfectant spray after each pumpout; the boats will be sanitized at the beginning of the season and at the end of a captain’s shift throughout the season, when the boat will be operated by a different captain. If anyone else besides the captain needs to be on the boat for maintenance, or emergencies, then six foot social distancing will be maintained.
Vicari noted that boaters should also follow the guidelines provided by the New Jersey State Police Marine Services which call for social distancing and other steps to be taken while on the water during this health crisis.
Vicari noted that the demand for the pumpout service continues to increase.
The 2019 boating season was a record year for the program with a 16 percent increase in total vessels serviced and a 19 percent increase in total gallons pumped over the previous year.
The six full-time boats were all purchased by Ocean County. The purchasing costs were reimbursed through the Clean Vessel Act Grant and the New Jersey Shore-to-Please license plate program. These same programs fund the installation of fixed pumpout stations at marinas throughout coastal New Jersey.
Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who was the sponsor of the legislation creating the New Jersey Shore-to-Please license plate, praised the success of Ocean County’s program.
“These boats are an integral part of our continuing work to ensure that the Barnegat Bay remains clean and free of pollutants,” she said.