The Ins and Outs of the Clean Vessel Program
Clean, pollutant-free water is something just about any mariner can get behind. In 2016, the Washington Clean Vessel Act helped divert a record 10 million gallons of raw sewage from being disposed of in Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and other state waterways. Without this and similar actions that have taken place over the last five years, most waste previously would have been dumped straight into these vulnerable environmental areas. The Clean Vessel Act is a joint program with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, and Washington Sea Grant work with marinas and boaters to collect and treat vessel sewage onshore using pump-out facilities. Washington Sea Grant redesigned a hands-free, spill-free adaptor kit to make it easier for boaters to use these facilities efficiently and sans mess.
Throughout this last year, Washington State Parks and Washington Sea Grant distributed 2,000 free adaptor kits at 50 marinas and raised awareness of best practices among Washington boaters at boat shows, festivals, yacht clubs, and through a partnership with the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Funding for the program comes from the Sportfish and Boating Restoration Fund administered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and grants are applied on behalf of State Parks Clean Vessel Program. The pump-out initiative has grown significantly, with success largely attributed to the broadening of education and training. After outreach began in 2010, state marina participants increased by 30%, and 65 new pump-out stations were added to total 150 stations currently in use. Clean Vessel Act program information is easily accessible to boaters at the Washington Sea Grant website, pumpoutwashington.org, which includes step-by-step instructions as well as a how-to video that outlines the pump-out process. The site contains a Google Map of pump-out locations and links to related boating laws, regulations, and additional programs. For marina managers, a variety of grants are available to help with pump-out facility installation, operation and maintenance. Discharging raw sewage in inland waters and within three miles of the coast is illegal, and results in poor consequences for human health and the environment.
By properly disposing of untreated waste, Washington boaters can prevent the risk of disease and beach closures as well as help keep shellfish beds and wildlife habitats free of contaminants. This summer, the pump-out team hopes to expand services to additional waterways, with potential to reach the San Juan Islands.