Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER – The demand for pumpout boat services on Ocean County waterways increased dramatically during the summer of 2020 as many more people decided to spend time on the water.
"As of the 2020 boating season, the pumpout boat program has broken through the milestone of 2 million gallons of effluent (2.1 mil. gal.), removed from more than 98,500 recreational boats since the start of the program in 1997," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is liaison to the popular program. "The County's successful pumpout boat program is a major factor towards ensuring that our coastal waters, such as the Barnegat Bay and the Little Egg Harbor, remain clean."
The six boats that make up the Ocean County Pumpout Boat program in addition to the Circle of Life, ended the 23rd season of the program in mid-October.
"The demand for pumpout boat services dramatically increased in the 2020 boating season, breaking all records," Vicari said. "There was a 24 percent increase in total vessels serviced and a 13 percent increase in total gallons pumped over the previous year."
According to the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, there was "a significant increase in boaters on the water, boat sales and new boaters" as well.
"If there were any silver linings from the coronavirus pandemic, it appears that people returned to boating in large numbers in order to enjoy leisure activities safely. This is also helpful to our local economy," Vicari said. "While there were restrictions in place, boating seemed a good choice to maintain social distancing and public safety."
The pumpout boat operators and captains maintained and operated the boats in accordance with safe social distancing protocols. The captains maintained a minimum distance of 6 feet from other boaters, and practiced no-contact pumpouts and disinfecting of nozzles. The vessels were thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant regularly.
"It was important to meet all the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines in order to keep our captains safe and the public they serviced," Vicari said. "Making these changes didn't make for an easy summer but knowing the importance of protecting Barnegat Bay and working with the captains and other partners, we were able to make it a safe and successful boating season.
"People wanted to get out on the water," Vicari said. "While there were new protocols in place for our boat captains and social distancing requirements for boaters due to the coronavirus pandemic, we needed to make sure we continued to protect our waterways and provide boaters with a means to properly dispose onboard wastewater."
More than 8,400 boats were serviced during the 2020 summer season and almost 200,000 gallons of effluent were removed from the vessels that could otherwise have ended up in the Barnegat Bay.
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.
"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.
"Even with the added concerns about COVID-19 and the increase in requests for service, our captains did a great job," Vicari said. "Their dedication and commitment to the environment and the boaters they served was even more evident this season. We couldn't do it without them."
Partners in the program include Brick Township, Seaside Park, the Tuckerton Seaport and the Ocean County Utilities Authority.
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.
The operational costs for the boats are shared by Ocean County and the Ocean County Utilities Authority in the amount of up to $20,000 per full time boat. The $130,000 budget covers the boat captains, fuel, maintenance, insurance and other operational costs. This allows the service to be provided free of charge to boaters. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also provides grant funds to offset the operational costs.