Ocean County Offers Free Pumpout Boat Service, Keeping The Bay Clean

Photo courtesy Ocean County

TOMS RIVER – Ocean County officials kicked off the 21st season of the Pumpout Boat Program during Memorial Day Weekend, which offers a free pumpout boat service. Officials urge resident boaters to use the pumpout service to dispose of wastewater, and to remember that Barnegat Bay is a no discharge zone.

“Barnegat Bay is an environmental jewel in Ocean County,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the pumpout boat program. “This free service provides boaters with the opportunity to have wastewater from the boat collected and disposed of properly.

“This is a key component in keeping our waterways clean,” he said.

The pumpout program uses specially equipped vessels capable of emptying the on-board toilets and tanks of other boats, which helps to keep waste out of the Barnegat Bay. The boats are located at different areas of the bay throughout the County and can be accessed via VHF Radio Channel 9. Cell phone numbers for the captains are also listed on the program’s website.

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The Barnegat Bay (Photo by Jason Allentoff)

This season, there will be six pumpout boats operating in the Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor every weekend. The Circle of Life, which was the first pumpout boat in the state, is being used as a backup for the season. Service will be dependent on the weather; bad weather may cause the boats to cease or delay service for the day.

Vicari also noted that boaters can use fixed pumpout stations located at some marinas throughout coastal New Jersey.

“This year we also have launched a Facebook page for the pumpout boat program,” said Vicari. “This page includes information on whether the boats are operating based on weather, other tips on safe boating and information pertinent to the program. It’s important that boaters can access this information.”

You can find the Facebook page at facebook.com/pumpoutoceancounty/.

Since its inception in 1997, the pumpout program has properly disposed of approximately 1.6 million gallons of waste from recreational boats and has serviced over 77,000 boats.

“This is a major step in ensuring our coastal waters remain clean,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little. “This program has grown in popularity over the years and Ocean County has the largest number of pumpout boats available to our visitors and residents who enjoy our waterways.

“The boat captains are known for their professionalism and their dedication to this program,” Little said. “They add another set of eyes to help boaters that may be in distress and they provide a service that protects our environment.”

The pumpout program has several partners including: Brick Township, the Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum, Seaside Park, and the Ocean County Utilities Authority.

Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari recently met with captains for the Ocean County Pumpout Boat Program during a boating season kickoff meeting. Ocean County operates the largest pumpout boat program in the state with seven boats and also launched the first pumpout boat – The Circle of Life – 20 years ago. Ocean County’s pumpout boats are specially equipped vessels capable of emptying the on-board toilets and tanks of other boats, thus keeping waste from entering the bay. The boats cover different areas of the bay throughout Ocean County. The pumpout boats can be accessed by contacting the captains on VHF Radio Channel 9. Pictured from left to right are Captains Val Varga (Pollution Solution), Robert Cardwell (Water Warrior), Dick Gouldey (Bay Sweeper), Steven Holiday (Bay Sweeper), Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, liaison to tourism and the pumpout boat program, George Ward (Waste Watcher II), Richard Christen (Brick), Harry Thorne (Bay Defender). Not shown: Mario Riccio (Bay Saver), John Lippincott (Circle of Life). (Photo courtesy Ocean County)

Some funds for the program were provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the boats, with the exception of the Circle of Life, were funded through the Clean Vessel Act Grant and the NJ Shore-to-Please license plate program.

“With the ongoing cooperation of all these groups and agencies, this program has been recognized statewide and nationally for its outstanding performance in protecting the environment,” Vicari said. “This also allows us to provide the service free of charge.”

The operational costs run about $20,000 per boat, which includes boat captains, fuel, maintenance, insurance and other incidental costs. This cost is shared between Ocean County and the Ocean County Utilities Authority.

“Boaters have embraced this free service and reach out to the captains on a regular basis for pumpouts,” said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who was a sponsor of the Shore-to-Please license plate program during her time in the state Assembly. “This is key to preventing waste water pollutants from entering our waterways.”

For more information on the pumpout boat program visit the Ocean County Planning Department’s website at planning.co.ocean.nj.us/coastal.htm.