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Our Pumpout Boat Is Taking Care of Business

This past summer you may have spotted our distinctive new pumpout boat with the name Headmaster prominently displayed on the wheelhouse. She plies the waters of Casco Bay removing raw sewage from marine toilets and ferrying it to shoreside wastewater facilities.

The 26-foot pumpout boat is captained by Pumpout Coordinator Jim Splude, who also skippered our first pumpout boat, Wanda. For nearly a quarter-century, Wanda kept over 200,000 gallons of sewage out of Casco Bay. The new boat has a 650-gallon sewage holding tank and two 250HP outboard engines. Enthuses Jim, “Not only does this new boat have twice the capacity of our old pumpout boat—it moves!” Her increased holding capacity, speed, and safety features have enabled Jim to expand his service area, now covering South Portland to Dolphin Marina in Harpswell.

The larger capacity also allows him to serve some commercial vessels, such as Portland Schooner Company sailing ships, Fog Works’ taxis, and some of the giant yachts that visit Portland with 700 to 900-gallon holding tanks (the standard size for a small boat is about 20 gallons). He also regularly visits Cow Island to pump out Rippleffect’s portapotties.

A day in the life of a pumpout boat captain

Jim’s job may not appeal to every mariner, but he has been our cheerful ambassador on the Bay for ten years now.

By 7 a.m., Jim is scrolling through pumpout requests that come in by email to pumpout [at] cascobay [dot] org. Before he leaves his house in Sebago, he checks the weather report and the Spring Point webcam so he can get a look at the actual water conditions far from his home.

He drives to Port Harbor Marine in South Portland and does a check of the boat, which is moored next to our Baykeeper vessel, the Research Vessel Joseph E. Payne.

Jim normally goes to the farthest point on his itinerary and works his way back to South Portland. All through the day and even after work, Jim checks emails and “recalculates” his schedule. “Busy is good,” he says.

Boaters and bystanders stop Jim frequently to ask what he is doing. True to the educational role of Headmaster, Jim explains that Casco Bay is a No Discharge Area, meaning it is illegal for any vessel, whether recreational boat or cruise ship, to dump treated or raw sewage within the three-mile limit.

At days’ end, Headmaster hauls back over 5,000 pounds of wastewater for disposal into Portland’s sewage treatment system through Portland Yacht Services or DiMillo’s Marina.

For $10 per 20-gallon holding tank, Jim pumps out customers’ boats at moorings and docks. Before pumpout service ends on Halloween, Jim will do a final flush of the holding tank for an additional $15.

Jim thanks his customers for doing their part to keep Casco Bay clean. “After all,” he says, “nobody wants to swim with poo.”  And Jim has done his part—just this summer he has carted away more than 20,000 gallons of raw sewage.

What’s in a boat name?

Photograph by Kevin Morris

Earlier this summer, more than 100 friends cheered as Friends of Casco Bay’s new pumpout boat was christened the Headmaster. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell explained that the boat’s name was chosen from nearly 400 names entered in our boat-naming contest. Headmaster is a play on the word for a marine toilet (a “head”) and gives a nod to the educational and ambassadorial role of our pumpout service.

It seems a waste (ahem) not to acknowledge some of the other names suggested. Imagine encountering our pumpout boat on the Bay with one of these entries:

Hook, Line & Stinker

How Now Brown Scow

Pumpty Dumpty

Scoopy Doo

Sue Edge

 

You might have been inspired to break into song if we had used:

Wasting Away (obviously submitted by a Jimmy Buffett fan)

Peggy Loo

Ain’t Too Proud to Pump

We Will Pump You (Think Queen.)

Pump the Magic Dragon

Pump & Circumstance

 

Or, we could have gone with the ever-popular, Pumpy McPumpface.

But this entry is for all those who suggested names for the newest member of our fleet: Tanks-a-Lot…“for keeping Casco Bay clean.”

And how is your summer going?

Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share:

  • Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. In recognition of her yeoman’s work on this issue, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was invited to attend the bill signing by Governor Janet Mills on June 26th.

 

  • Our water quality sampling season is well underway, as we continue to add to our long-term dataset at 22 shoreside and deepwater sites around the Bay. You may see Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy making the rounds by land and by sea every few weeks from April through October.

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Since early June, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell has been attending bi-weekly meetings of the South Portland Fertilizer Working Group to assist the City in drafting a fertilizer ordinance.

 

  • July 20 marks the third anniversary of the launch of our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. Our Monitoring Station is fondly nicknamed the “Cage of Science” because its high-tech sensors are housed inside a transformed lobster trap. The instruments measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, and carbon dioxide.
    Photo by Kevin Morris

    Together, they collect data once an hour, every hour, year round.  At this time of year, Mike has to scrape off a new array of marine hitchhikers whenever he hauls up the Cage of Science to download data.

 

  • ‘Tis the season to think about what not to put on your lawn! With five workshops behind her, Associate Director Mary Cerullo has scheduled another five BayScaping presentations for August and beyond. She is happy to talk with neighborhood groups about green yards and a blue Bay.

 

  • There has been such a demand by community groups to volunteer for coastal cleanups and storm drain stenciling projects that Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and summer intern Alexis Burns have been very busy. They already have hosted seven events with 106 participants who collected an estimated 238 lbs. of trash and stenciled 238 storm drains!

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Our new pumpout boat, Headmaster, was launched on June 10th to pump raw sewage from the marine toilets of recreational boats. Captain Jim Splude, our congenial pumpout boat coordinator, can go about his business more efficiently now with a new boat that has more than twice the holding capacity of the old one.

 

  • Our Water Reporter volunteer project is expanding as we hoped and planned. Nearly 40 enthusiastic volunteers attended our Water Reporter training on June 24. Volunteers continue to sign up to keep watch over specific areas of the Bay.
    July 10 was the first anniversary of Friends of Casco Bay’s launch of the Water Reporter app. To date, 162 volunteers in this observing network have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!

Headmaster sets the standards for a clean Casco Bay


Captain Pam Parker christened the newest member of Friends of Casco Bay’s fleet with the words, “We name you Headmaster. May the elements be kind, your captain wise, and the Bay rejoice in your work.”  More than 100 Friends of the Bay cheered as Portland Yacht Service’s giant blue travel lift Babe lowered our newly-named pumpout boat into Casco Bay. Our 26-foot pumpout boat is a very unique vessel that siphons raw sewage from the holding tanks of recreational boats, transferring the wastewater for shoreside treatment.

The ceremony on Monday, June 10, was emceed by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, who explained that the boat’s name, Headmaster, was chosen from the nearly 400 names submitted by the public. Fittingly, the name puns on the nautical term for a toilet — “head” — and gives a nod to the educational and ambassadorial role of our Vessel Pumpout Program.  To see photos from this event, visit the photo album on our Facebook page.

Through her work overseeing the state pumpout program at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Pam has been the facilitator for the federal support for our pumpout program for over two decades. Funding from the federal Clean Vessel Act financed 90% of the cost of the new boat. Our Pumpout Program has kept over 200,000 gallons of raw sewage out of the Bay since 1995.

Headmaster, built expressly for Friends of Casco Bay by Marine Boatbuilders of Warwick, Rhode Island, has a 650-gallon sewage holding tank, twice the capacity of our earlier pumpout boat, Wanda. From 1995 through 2018, Wanda pumped out marine toilets at marinas and moorings from South Portland to Freeport. She continues to be a champion for clean water in her new home at the Boston Sailing Center in Boston Harbor.

Headmaster’s Captain, Pumpout Coordinator Jim Splude is our ambassador on the Bay. In addition to servicing recreational boats from May through October, he is happy to teach customers how to perform the task themselves. Jim also educates boaters on the importance of keeping sewage, bacteria, and excess nitrogen out of the Bay.

Our Pumpout Program has done more for the health of the Bay than just serving recreational vessels. In order to become a No Discharge Area, a designation that protects our waters from cruise ship pollution, the EPA required that there be adequate pumpout facilities throughout the region before granting this designation. We encouraged local marinas to install their own pumpout stations while leading an advocacy effort to encourage Maine to request a no discharge status for the Bay. Our Pumpout Program then set the stage for Casco Bay to become Maine’s first federally-designated No Discharge Area, which prohibits vessels from dumping treated and untreated sewage.

This mobile pumpout service is part of our efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution from sewage, fertilizers, stormwater runoff, and air pollution. An overdose of nitrogen in coastal waters can trigger nuisance and harmful algal blooms that may reduce water clarity, prevent juvenile clams from settling, and suffocate animals in the mud. When these plants die, decomposing bacteria can deplete oxygen needed by marine life and create acidic conditions that make it harder for shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and oysters, to build and maintain their shells.

Learn more about our mobile pumpout service at: https://www.cascobay.org/how-to-help/pumpout/.

Whither Wanda?

Our trusty pumpout boat Wanda (aka Baykeeper II) kept over 200,000 gallons of raw sewage out of the Bay from 1995 to 2018, siphoning wastewater from the toilets of recreational boats and delivering it to shoreside facilities. After nearly a quarter century of service, it was time for an upgrade.

This spring, we took possession of a new 26-foot pumpout boat, built by Marine Boat Builders Company of Warwick, Rhode Island. Our new boat will enable us to haul 650 gallons of sewage — more than twice the capacity of our old workhorse.

Before our pumpout boat was on the scene, local boaters reported seeing raw sewage floating at popular anchorages. People sometimes said they got swimmer’s rash from being in the water.

Our Pumpout Program does more for the health of the Bay than just servicing recreational vessels. Our knowledge of pumpout facilities helped encourage local marinas to install their own pumpout stations. An added benefit of our pumpout advocacy: We led the charge for Casco Bay to become the first federally designated No Discharge Area in Maine, protecting it from cruise ship pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that a region have adequate pumpout facilities before granting this designation, which prohibits boats from dumping both treated and untreated sewage.

As for Wanda, she will continue to be a champion for clean water in service for Boston Sailing Center in Boston Harbor.