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Don’t pee or poop in the Bay

David Gooch is a boater with a lifelong connection to Casco Bay. When asked why he always pumps-out his blackwater, David recalls a vivid memory from his childhood growing up in Falmouth.

“We used to swim down at Town Landing, back in the 1950s,” says David. “At times there was toilet paper on my shoulder and little brown boats floating in front of my face.”

From that young age, it has been clear to David that sewage does not belong in Casco Bay. While the brown boats David remembers from childhood are no longer encountered at Falmouth Town Landing, he remains adamant that boaters have a responsibility to follow the law and care for the Bay’s waters.

Pumping out your boat’s sewage does more than keep poop and fecal bacteria out of the Bay: it also prevents nitrogen pollution. Urine contains nitrogen in the form of urea. Casco Bay has long struggled with excess inputs of nitrogen. Too much nitrogen in the Bay contributes to the growth of nuisance and harmful algal blooms, which in turn can exacerbate coastal acidification. By keeping pee out of the Bay you are helping to reduce nitrogen pollution in our coastal waters.

“There’s no reason to not pumpout your boat,” says David, noting that many pumpout services around the Bay are free of cost, such as the pumpout station at Falmouth Town Landing. “The old saying was ‘dilution is the solution to pollution,’ but it’s not true anymore.”

We at Friends of Casco Bay could not agree more with David. As boaters, we know that there are more boats on the Bay than ever before. For the health of our coastal waters, we all must practice habits for a healthy bay.

Don’t pee or poop in Casco Bay 

It is illegal and harmful to discharge sewage into Casco Bay. 

Casco Bay is a federally-designated No Discharge Area, which means it is illegal to release blackwater (raw or treated sewage) from any vessel into the Bay — this includes peeing over the side. All boats in Casco Bay must hold their blackwater until it can be removed at a pumpout facility. It is also illegal for any vessel to discharge graywater (shower, sink, or onboard laundry water) that is mixed with blackwater.

For smaller boats without an onboard toilet, urine and feces must be collected and disposed of at facilities on land. Many boaters keep an emergency bucket onboard for such situations.

We may ask ourselves: Casco Bay is large, how can one person’s waste have a negative impact? The EPA has said the untreated sewage from one weekend boater contains the same quantity of bacteria as the sewage from 10,000 people that has been processed by a treatment plant. Considering that thousands of boats anchor and pass through Casco Bay each summer, the harmful impacts of boater sewage can add up fast.

To learn more, visit http://www.cascobay.org/boating/.

Thank you for caring about the health of Casco Bay.

Casco Bay is a No Discharge Area (NDA)

Casco Bay is a federally-designated No Discharge Area, which means it is illegal to release blackwater (raw or treated sewage) from any vessel into the Bay. All boats in Casco Bay must hold their blackwater until it can be removed at a pumpout facility. It is also illegal for any vessel to discharge graywater (shower, sink, or onboard laundry water) that is mixed with blackwater. 

Smaller boats without an onboard toilet are not exempt from the No Discharge Area rules, and must collect blackwater and human waste to be disposed of at facilities on land. Some boaters keep an emergency bucket onboard for such situations.

A Note on Graywater

Graywater is wastewater from a boat’s showers, sinks, or onboard laundry. While recreational vessels (specifically, vessels that carry fewer than 250 passengers) are legally permitted to discharge graywater (when not combined with blackwater) into Casco Bay, Friends of Casco Bay does not recommend this practice. Graywater still contains elements that can harm the health of the Bay. We recommend the following practices to reduce the negative impacts of graywater and help keep the Bay clean:

  • If your vessel is large enough, hold your graywater to be pumped-out with your blackwater at a pumpout facility. 
  • When cleaning or doing dishes, use nontoxic and biodegradable cleaners with no phosphorus or nitrogen compounds. Always dilute cleaners to the maximum extent possible. 

Our pumpout program has been suspended for the season

Pumpout service from Friends of Casco Bay has been suspended for the 2021 season due to the ongoing pandemic.

Please remember: Casco Bay is a federally-designated No Discharge Area, which means it is illegal to release raw or treated sewage from any vessel into the Bay. It also is illegal to discharge graywater (shower, sink, and onboard laundry water) that is mixed with sewage water. For more information on the discharge of blackwater and graywater please refer to https://www.maine.gov/dep/water/wd/vessel/nda/ndafactsheet.pdf

There are numerous facilities around the Bay where you can pump out your boat. Here is an interactive map of all pumpout facilities in Maine. You can zoom in on Casco Bay, then hover and click on the icons for more information about any facility, including lat/long and phone number. We strongly encourage you to call ahead because each facility operates with different staffing levels and hours.

If you find a pumpout station that is not operating, please contact Pam Parker at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection by calling her at (207) 485-3038, or emailing her at Pamela [dot] D [dot] Parker [at] maine [dot] gov or emailing our Office Manager Jeff Fetterer at jfetterer [at] cascobay [dot] org.

We thank you for caring about the health of Casco Bay.

Warm regards,
Cathy L. Ramsdell, CPA
Executive Director

Top 10 stories of 2019

Let’s walk down Memory Lane together to recall our most popular stories of the year, based on your visits to our website and our social media interactions:

  • You answered the call when Casco Bay needed your voice
    We asked our supporters to let legislators know they are concerned about climate change and the health of Casco Bay. You urged the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Marine Resources to support a bill to create a Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission. Your voices were heard as our bill was incorporated into the Governor’s comprehensive climate change bill, An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council, which was passed with strong bipartisan support.
  • Maine takes a BIG step forward to address climate change
    Friends of Casco Bay fervently supported Governor Mills’ bill to establish the Maine Climate Council because it focuses on the root causes of climate change and recognizes that we must act now to remediate and adapt to inevitable change. Our Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Climate Council.
  • Casco Bay Temperature Extremes
    Research Associate Mike Doan is often asked, “What were the highest and the lowest water temperatures this year?” Thanks to our Continuous Monitoring Station, Mike is able to share those data with confidence. He can tell you what water conditions in the Bay are on an hourly, daily, weekly, seasonal, or yearly basis in far more detail than ever before.
  • Our new pumpout boat is taking care of business
    On June 10, more than 100 friends cheered the christening and launch of Headmaster, the new pumpout boat specially built for Friends of Casco Bay. It transports raw sewage from the holding tanks of recreational boats to shoreside treatment. The name Headmaster is a play on the word for a marine toilet — “head” — and gives a nod to the educational and ambassadorial role of the pumpout service.
  • Have you seen this fin?
    It’s not a shark! Several boaters on the Bay encountered Mola mola, or ocean sunfish, this summer. Its bulbous body is not designed for speed, but it can plunge down hundreds of feet in search of its favorite food: jellyfish. It then floats on its side at the ocean surface to warm up after its chilly dive.
  • Casco Bay Matters
    In March and April, 380 people attended our first-ever Casco Bay Matters series, held at three venues around the Bay. They heard Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, Research Associate Mike Doan, and Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell speak on Climate Change, Ocean Acidification and You in Portland, South Portland, and Brunswick. By the last presentation, in Brunswick, it was standing room only. If you missed our Casco Bay Matters presentations, you can see the series of three videos on our YouTube channel.
  • BEE a BayScaper!
    We were proud to see a BayScaper sign on the lawn of Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteer Jane Benesch. Her South Portland yard is bedecked with flower beds, vegetable patches, and wood chip-lined paths — and just a little turf. Her yard attracts butterflies and bees — and neighbors who stop to admire her winged visitors.
  • Hosting so many service days with local companies this year is great for Casco Bay.
    Friends of Casco Bay led 22 coastal cleanups this summer. We had so many requests for community service projects that volunteers sometimes scoured the same location only four days apart. “Still,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, “we always found find plenty of debris to pick up!”
  • Keep pet waste out of the Bay!
    While we were examining a pollution incident in Cumberland, we came across several dog poop bags at the outfall of a storm drain. When folks toss poop bags into a storm drain, they are not doing the Bay any favors. Storm drains often lead directly to Casco Bay. So after bagging it, deposit pet waste in a trash can or flush the contents down the toilet and throw the plastic bag in the trash.
  • Water Reporters report in about #sealevelrise
    Volunteer Water Reporters were out taking photos of the high tides to document flooded streets, eroding coastlines, and tide levels encroaching where we don’t normally see them. Water Reporter provides a two-way conversation platform about protecting Casco Bay.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New year. Make sure you stay on top of news about Casco Bay in 2020!

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.