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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.

Have you seen this fin?

It’s not a shark! It’s the fin of a Mola mola, or ocean sunfish. One of our staff members spotted this huge fish in mid-August, just off Little Mark Island near Bailey Island, Harpswell. He shared a photo of it with our Water Reporter network. Since then, we have spotted several more of these disk-shaped fish in our local waters. Sunfish are found in tropical and temperate waters, often in deeper water than Casco Bay.

Its common name of ocean sunfish comes from the creature’s habit of lying on its side at the surface, possibly waiting for seabirds to nibble on its array of parasites. Or it may be warming in the sun after a deep dive in search of jellyfish and other gelatinous creatures. One of the aspects that makes it endearing is that its big eyes and O-shaped mouth make it appear to be in a perpetual state of surprise.

Its scientific name, Mola, is Latin for millstone — a large round stone used to grind grain. It also describes this fish’s shape, which can reach 6 to 10 feet across.

We welcome all sorts of reports of what you are seeing around Casco Bay, good and bad. Many Water Reporters use hashtags to organize their observations. To see a map of all the #wildlife posts shared with our group, click here.

Mount Desert Islander posted this story about the Mola mola just yesterday, if you want to read more.

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!
Water Reporter App

Water Reporters: you are a growing observing network on Casco Bay

Water Reporters, this is your reference for using the Water Reporter app. It summarizes the topics covered at the Water Reporter training event held in June 2019. We are so pleased to see how volunteers like you are having an impact by being Water Reporters.

Types of Water Reporter Posts we want to see

Water Reporter App
“The more people who use Water Reporter, the better chance we have to tackle problems that otherwise may go unnoticed.” – Volunteer Rick Frantz

There are a variety of posts that are helpful. Using hashtags to identify the type of incident you are reporting helps organize your reports. If you are having trouble remembering the types of posts we are looking for and the hashtags to use, think WATERS!

W  #wildlife
A   #algae
T   #trash
E   #erosion
R   #reportpollution
S   #sealevelrise

Resources

We have new resources on our Water Reporter webpage. Some sections that may be of interest to you:

 

You can help us collect observations on two special issues we are tracking.

Nuisance Algal Blooms (#algae)

At the training, several people offered to help track nuisance algal blooms at specific locations around the Bay. We are still looking for volunteers to cover the following locations on a regular basis:

If you would like to take part by visiting one of these sites weekly, slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org“>let me know and I’ll send you the instructions.

Sea Level Rise (#sealevelrise)

#sealevelrise is all about capturing photos of extreme high tides and storm surges and their impacts on our coast. Water Reporters are helping us envision what our coastline may look like in the future as sea levels continue to rise:

  • when there is a King Tide, a predicted extra high tide, or
  • when we have storm surge.

When these two conditions happen at the same time, we see the greatest impact. You can see more about this on the Water Reporter webpage as well. Click the Sea level rise tab in the Special Water Reporter Posting Types section. The next opportunity to document a King Tide will be during the first few days of August.

Need help or can’t find what you are looking for?

Contact me via email: slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org, or text or call at (207) 370-7553.

Please keep your posts and questions coming! We are here to help you with Water Reporter, as it is quickly becoming an essential part of our work.

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/.

Help name our new Pumpout Boat!

Our new pumpout boat needs a name

Thank you to everyone who submitted name ideas for Friends of Casco Bay’s New Pumpout Boat! The contest is closed and we will be choosing a winner in the coming weeks. We’ll reveal the name at our New Pumpout Boat Christening & Launch Party on June 10th

You can help.

We are looking for a dynamic name for the newest member of our Baykeeper fleet. We invite you to suggest a name (or two or three or more!) using the form below.

After nearly a quarter century of service, we are replacing our old pumpout boat, Wanda [AKA Baykeeper II].  

This spring, we will take possession of the new 26-foot pumpout boat, built by Marine Boat Builders, Inc. of Warwick, Rhode Island. This boat has a 650-gallon holding tank (more than twice our old boat’s capacity), all the latest navigational equipment, and two 250HP outboards.   

Please suggest a name that we would be proud to display on our boat and is fitting for this beautiful Bay. Your suggestions should be fun or inspiring — or both! Clever is good, crass is not. If your suggestion is chosen, you will be our guest of honor at our pumpout boat launch party, win a ride on our Baykeeper Boat, R/V Joseph E. Payne, with senior staff from Friends of Casco Bay, and get some cool swag. The name will be chosen by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell with a committee of our Board of Directors.

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m., Monday, April 15.

Since Friends of Casco Bay launched its Pumpout Program in 1995, our old pumpout boat has kept over 200,000 gallons of raw sewage out of the Bay. Our Pumpout Coordinator Jim Splude services recreational boats at marinas and docks between South Portland and Freeport, pumping out holding tanks and transferring the wastewater to shoreside disposal.

Our pumpout boat and our advocacy helped encourage local marinas to install their own pumpout stations, setting the stage for Casco Bay to become the first federally-designated No Discharge Area in Maine. The EPA requires that there are adequate pumpout facilities before granting this designation, which prohibits boats from dumping treated or untreated sewage.

Before our pumpout boat was on the scene, many local boaters did not have access to pumpout services. At times, raw sewage could be seen floating at popular anchorages. People would say they got swimmer’s rash from being in the water.

Our new boat will be christened at our official launch party on Monday, June 10th. If you are on our email list, you will be invited to the party!

Thank you to everyone who submitted name ideas for Friends of Casco Bay’s New Pumpout Boat! The contest is closed and we will be choosing a winner in the coming weeks.

Casco Baykeeper Boat trip

Can a boat change perspectives?

Casco Baykeeper Boat trip
Taking our partners out on the Bay provides them with a different perspective on problems that affect the health of Casco Bay. Photo courtesy: Beth and Steve Westra

We are fortunate to have several platforms and partners to help our work to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. We’ll be highlighting each one in the coming weeks. One of those platforms is our Baykeeper Boat.

Our Baykeeper boat is where science, policy, and public engagement converge. As a marine organization, we are on or by the Bay year-round, and we take others there, too, to see the threats to the health of the Bay firsthand.

Our Research Vessel Joseph E. Payne provides a safe, reliable platform to conduct scientific studies, bring stakeholders together to work for clean water, and reach out to those who care about the health of the Bay. This 28-foot Baykeeper boat provides a water-level view of issues such as stormwater runoff and combined sewer pipes that disgorge polluted water into the Bay, suspicious algal blooms never detected here before, coastal flooding from sea level rise and historic storms, and a working waterfront clogged with toxic sediments that displace boat berths.

We convene floating meetings of policy makers from different departments and agencies to foster new working relationships and new approaches to issues we all care about. We provide an alternative perspective, all too rare, to examine issues that threaten the health of the Bay, from being on the Bay itself. We bring government officials and regulators, including staff from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Casco Bay municipalities. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca says, “Many of our concerns are best understood from the water.”

We guide reporters, film crews, and donors around the Bay to show them the resource we all are responsible for protecting.

The Joseph E. Payne is foremost a research vessel, from which we monitor the health of our waters, study how acidification may be impacting our marine resources, assess new technologies for measuring nitrogen and sampling for microplastics, and follow up on reports of pollution, nuisance algal blooms, and other threats to the health of the Bay.

Water Reporters watch out for Casco Bay all year long

We launched our Water Reporter Observing Network in July. Since then, our volunteer Water Reporters have been reporting the good, the bad, and the ugly of what they have been seeing out on the Bay. Here are some recent examples:

We depend on our ever-expanding network of Water Reporters to help us keep an eye on the Bay:

  • reporting problems, such as pollution or outbreaks of nuisance algal blooms,
  • commenting on daily changes in the Bay from tides to the character of the water, and
  • sharing the beauty of the Bay and its diverse plant and animal life.

Water Reporter is a worldwide social network that connects individuals with organizations like ours that are actively working to protect and improve water quality.

By using the Water Reporter app on their smartphones or tablets, Volunteers provide an instant record of their observation with a photo, the location, and the time. We can then use the app to respond and let you know what actions we took.

The Water Reporter app is an awesome way to record what is happening around our beautiful but changing Bay.

If you aren’t a Water Reporter already, we invite you to join Friends of Casco Bay’s Observing Network at cascobay.org/water-reporter. Each submission is displayed on a map, which can be seen on the sign-up page. Friends of Casco Bay Staff is notified of sightings. You can find your own posts, and you can see and comment on what others are observing around the Bay.

Sandy M shared this post on September 11th near East End Beach:

“Just more plastic junk, but c’mon,”  

Our Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman responded, remarking on how timely his observation was. “Good thing the International Coastal Cleanup day is on September 15th, 2018.”

Gerry G posted, “Back Cove looks pretty good a few hours after high tide.”

We are especially interested in how tides, storm surges, and sea level rise will impact the coastline. We encourage observers to catalogue photos of different tidal and weather conditions at the same location over time.

Friends of Casco Bay Staffer Will Everitt wrote, “Today was a #ColorbyNumbersday so I measured color at #Portland‘s East End boat launch. Green water, 6 to 8 on the Forel-Ule scale.”

Many of our Volunteers also participate in our Color by Numbers citizen science project. They use the EyeOnWater – Color app to compare the color of the water against a century-old oceanographic tool called the Forel-Ule color scale. Thisindex of 21 colors—from blue to brown—measures color as a revealing indicator of the health of oceans and lakes.

We like to see the beautiful photos, too! Sandy M shared this post of the September 22nd sunset.