Friends of Casco Bay’s boat pumpout service provides a convenient, practical way to get rid of your boat waste.
Why did we launch our Pumpout Program?
There are many idyllic anchorages in Casco Bay that are sheltered, calm, and shallow. The same qualities that make places like Cocktail Cove, the Goslings, Quahog Bay, and The Basin popular with boaters also make them especially vulnerable to sewage pollution.
Imagine the impact of even one or two boats discharging sewage at popular anchorages where people swim or collect water to cook lobsters and steamers!
Sewage discharges result in murky water, surface film and scum, odors, and floating debris. Raw sewage can spread diseases, contaminate shellfish beds, spur the growth of nuisance algae, and lower oxygen levels in the water, making it difficult for fish and other marine animals to survive. Sewage holding tanks also contain chemical additives that may be ingested by bottom-dwelling organisms, such as clams and mussels, and enter the food chain.
Casco Bay is a No Discharge Area, making it against federal law to discharge raw sewage within the three-mile territorial limit, but some recreational boaters still dump their waste into coastal waters. Some may not be aware that what they are doing is illegal, since some Casco Bay anchorages are as much as 16 miles from the three-mile limit. Others may think that their individual impact is small, or that they won’t be caught, but with more than 5,000 boats cruising the Bay, the cumulative effect can be significant.
200,000 Gallons and Counting. . .
In 1995, Friends of Casco Bay bought a boat equipped with a sewage pumpout system and began offering a mobile pumpout service to recreational and some commercial boats. Our brand new pumpout vessel, Headmaster, was launched in June 2019. She can carry up to 650 gallons of raw sewage to shoreside disposal facilities.
Since 1995, our pumpout program has kept 200,000 gallons of sewage out of the Bay.
Before our program began, many local boaters weren’t accustomed to using pumpouts here in Maine. There were times you could see raw sewage in the Bay at popular anchorages, and people would say they’d get swimmer’s rash from being in the water. Yet they didn’t make the connection to their own practices of discharging their sewage into the water.
These days, customers are better educated about keeping sewage out of the Bay, and most seek out pumpout facilities, says Pumpout Coordinator Jim Splude. As our Ambassador on the Bay, Jim feels a responsibility to educate boaters about the impact of raw sewage. He can explain why keeping excess nitrogen out of the Bay is important.
Kathryn Reid, a former Friends of Casco Bay Board member, always has the health of our waters in mind when she ventures out onto Casco Bay. “Whenever we are boating, we take advantage of Friends of Casco Bay’s pumpout service and advise other boaters about it.”
She recalls, “I was out in California to visit my family in Mountain View, a suburb in Silicon Valley, where there is enormous wealth. I was struck by the number of gorgeous beaches close by. Every single one had signs with skulls and crossbones posted ‘Closed to swimming or wading.’ There were tons of people on the beach, but not one in the water. They didn’t even let their dogs go in the water.
“Here in Maine, we sail, kayak, and swim. Our dog goes swimming, too. Every time I get water in my mouth I think, ‘Thank goodness for Friends of Casco Bay!’”
What Friends of Casco Bay has done to reduce boat pollution:
- In 1995, Friends of Casco Bay bought a boat equipped with a sewage pumpout system and began offering a mobile pump-out service to recreational and some commercial boats.
- We provided expertise and information to marinas to fulfill their obligation to install shoreside pumpout stations around the Bay. Today, there are 21 stations, supported by funding from the Department of Environmental Protection through the Clean Vessels Act. Having an adequate number of pumpout facilities is a prerequisite before a harbor can apply for No Discharge status from the EPA.
- In 2002, we hosted a Citizen Forum that launched a campaign to stop cruise ship pollution, recognizing that one cruise ship could dump more waste than a summer’s worth of recreational boaters might.
- In 2004, we succeeded in getting a state law passed to prohibit cruise ships from dumping their “gray water” wastes from sinks and galleys into state waters.
- In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated Casco Bay as the state’s first No Discharge Area under the Clean Water Act, making it illegal to dump boat sewage—whether treated or untreated—within three miles of the coast. Since then, other harbors in Maine have become No Discharges Areas.
What you can do to keep Casco Bay blue while out on your boat?
- Use shoreside toilet facilities before leaving the dock.
- Don’t pee over the side!
- Learn how to operate the pumpout station at your marina.
- To request a pumpout from Friends of Casco Bay, contact pumpout [at] cascobay [dot] org or (207) 776-0136. This service extends from South Portland to Freeport. Fee is $10 for a 20-gallon tank.
- In Quahog Bay, you can contact the Quahog Bay Conservation (QBC) Pumpout Boat. Call (207) 522-1105. Free of charge. Great Island Boatyard, at the head of Quahog Bay, also provides a free pumpout service.
- Find other pumpout facilities in Maine here. Always call ahead to ensure the station is working.
- Help Fund the Pumpout Program: Your donation will help keep sewage out of Casco Bay. Donate here and write “Pumpout” in the comments box. Thank you!
Cover photo: Photograph by Kevin Morris