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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.