The Washington State Parks Boating Program will no longer provide funds for mobile pump-out skiffs to remove sewage at no charge from holding tanks in marinas on Lake Washington, Portage Bay, the Duwamish River, Gig Harbor and Liberty Bay, effective February 29, 2020. Funding for the Clean Vessel Act grant program comes from taxes on boating fuel and fishing equipment.
Washington State Parks and federal officials performed an audit of the mobile pump-out program, and determined it was not sustainable. “We are looking for ways to provide the mobile service in those areas during boating season, May to September,” said Rob Sendak, WSP boating program manager, “and we are taking a look at doing the free service on certain days of the week.”
“There was no requirement for public comment about the program,” he said. “And there is no formal appeal process but Washington Parks welcomes comments or feedback.” Boaters were disappointed to learn that there was no public comment period or opportunity for boaters to demonstrate the value of the program as a good investment for clean water in increasingly crowded fresh waterways.
Many say the fixed pump-out stations are hard to find, hard to get to, often don’t work properly and are crowded in tight waterways. In addition, there aremany new boaters who don’t have proper training for the inconvenient and hard-to-access fixed pump-out stations.
The Washington State Parks website says 10.8 million gallons of sewage were prevented from contaminating Washington’s waters by boaters using Clean Vessel Act-supported pump-out facilities and free mobile pump-out services. In 1992, Congress passed the Clean Vessel Act to help reduce pollution from vessel sewage discharges into U.S. waters. Established by the federal act, the program funds the construction, renovation, operation and maintenance of pump-out and dump stations for use by recreational boaters.
“After pumping nearly 1 million gallons of sewage from boat holding tanks,” said QCYC member Terry Durfee, Terry & Sons Mobile Marine Pumpout, “Washington Parks no longer feels the pump-out service is a good use of federal grant money.
“We always felt a sense of pride in helping to keep our local waterways clean, and never thought in a million years that the State would end this grant program,” Terry said. Pumpout Seattle will attempt to support boaters in the fresh water with a for-profit business – charging $25 per service. “We hope boaters will do the right thing, using fixed pumpouts or a paid service. Not only is it illegal to pump your boats sewage overboard, it is also gross.”
Boaters who care about the environment and the importance of the pump-out service should contact Rob Sendak (Rob.Sendak@parks.wa.gov – Cell:360-628-1876 Desk:360-902-8836) and Governor Jay Inslee, who prides himself on environmental stewardship (360-902-4111 and email @governor.wa.gov/contact).