OCEAN COUNTY – Now in its 20th year, Ocean County’s pumpout boats will take to the Barnegat Bay Memorial Day weekend making certain boat wastewater is managed properly and boaters are enjoying the bay safely.
“I recently met with all of our boat captains and the other partners in this program and it was unanimous – we are expecting a great summer season here in Ocean County,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to tourism. “Barnegat Bay is an environmental jewel and our pumpout boats help in our continuing effort to protect and preserve it.
“Our captains also provide additional eyes for recreational boaters making certain they are safe on the water,” he said.
Ocean County operates the largest pumpout boat program in the state including the first pumpout in New Jersey, The Circle of Life, which started service 20 years ago.
“I want to acknowledge all of our partners that make this program so successful,” Vicari said. “We have grown from operating one boat that focused on the area of the northern barrier island to six that allows us to cover the entire bay and its tributaries.”
The partners include Brick Township, the Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum, Seaside Park, and the Ocean County Utilities Authority. The state Department of Environmental Protection also provides some funds to offset the operational costs. And, the boats, with the exception of the Circle of Life, were all purchased by Ocean County with the costs being reimbursed through the Clean Vessel Act Grant and the NJ Shore-to-Please license plate program. The Circle of Life was purchased by Seaside Park.
“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.
Since the program began in 1997, more than 70,000 recreational boats have used the free service and over 1.4 million gallons of effluent have been disposed of properly.
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. In addition, cell phone numbers for the captains are listed on the program’s website and in promotional materials.
The costs to operate all the boats are split between the county and the Ocean County Utilities Authority.
“The $120,000 budget covers the boat captains, fuel, maintenance, insurance and other incidental costs,” Vicari said. “This allows the service to be provided free of charge to boaters.”
Six of the boats operate regularly in the greater Barnegat Bay area while the Circle of Life, is currently used as a backup for busy weekends.
Vicari said the pumpout boat program is essential for a county like Ocean County which relies on tourism for its economic base.
“When boaters are unable to use the many pumpouts based at the marinas throughout the County, they should be using the pumpout boats,” he said. “We now operate six pumpout boats regularly that are helping us do our part to keep Barnegat Bay and its tributaries clean. We encourage all of our boaters who are out enjoying the bay and our rivers to use this free service and prevent waste water pollutants from entering our waterways.”
The boats operate Memorial Day weekend through October each year, including major holidays like July 4th, and have steadily expanded their operations.
Vicari again credited the boat captains for being “our eyes and ears on the water.”
“They can quickly notify us of any problems,” Vicari said. “They serve as our ambassadors on the water.”
For more information on the pumpout boat program visit the Ocean County Planning Department’s website at planning.co.ocean.nj.us/coastal.htm.