Program Receives Environmental Excellence Award
TOMS RIVER – Since its inception, Ocean County's pump out boat program has removed more than 800,000 documented gallons of concentrated sewage from the holding tanks and portable toilets of more than 41,000 boats using Barnegat Bay and its tributaries.
"Without this service we do not know where this sewage may have been released," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Barnegat Bay Partnership. "Because of this free service we know it wasn't released into the bay."
Ocean County's pumpout boat program, which recently completed its 13th season of service, will receive the 2011 New Jersey Governor's Environmental Excellence Award in the category of Water Resources during a ceremony at the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, on Dec. 8.
"We are so pleased that this program is being recognized," said Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who is accepting the award on behalf of the Board of Freeholders. "This program has been in the forefront of keeping our bay waters clean. It has been a big benefit to our sensitive environment."
"Through the 2011 boating season, over 800,000 documented gallons of concentrated sewage have been removed from the holding tanks and portable toilets of 41,266 boats that had the potential to otherwise have been discharged directly into the Barnegat Bay National Estuary and the Little Egg Harbor Bay," Vicari said. "We have given our continuing support to this program knowing it is vital to the health of the bay."
The pump out boat program got its start in the mid 1990's when the State of New Jersey decided to participate in the federal Clean Vessel Act Program.
An early advocate of the program, Pete McLain, convinced the Borough of Seaside Park, the NJ CVA committee and the County of the need for a pump out boat. Seaside Park moved forward to purchase the first pump out boat, with 100 percent reimbursement through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and with the assistance and support of the County.
"The Ocean County Board of Freeholders agreed to provide the operational funds from the very beginning, to assist with the operational costs and to ensure that the service was provided free of charge," Vicari said.
The "Circle of Life," which was the first pump out boat in New Jersey, began operations in 1998 to service the central Barnegat Bay, especially in the Tices Shoal area where hundreds of boaters congregate during the summer months. Since then, the demand for pumpout services has been dramatically increasing.
"At this time, the County's fleet numbers 5 boats, which service the entire intercoastal Barnegat Bay down to the Little Egg Harbor Bay," Vicari said.
Ocean County's pumpout boats are all about 21-foot vessels that are specially equipped to be capable of emptying the on-board toilets and tanks of other boats, thus keeping waste from entering the bay. The five boats cover different areas of the bay throughout Ocean County.
"This successful program has been run through the collaboration of the Ocean County Board of Freeholders, our Planning Department, Tuckerton Seaport, Seaside Park, Brick Township and the Ocean County Utilities Authority," said Little, who also serves as liaison to the Ocean County Planning Department. "As a team, we have made significant strides in preserving and protecting the Barnegat Bay. Keeping Ocean County waterways clean is a priority to this Board."
The newest pump out boat, the Bay Sweeper, was purchased in 2010 and joined the Waste Watcher at the Tuckerton Seaport, the Circle of Life and Water Warrior, operated by Seaside Park and the Bay Saver, operated by the Township of Brick.
All of the Ocean County pump out boats were purchased by the County with grants provided through the Clean Vessel Act Program with Federal and State funds, with the exception of the "Circle of Life," which was purchased by Seaside Park with the assistance and support of the County.
The program uses federal grants to fund 75 percent of the cost for pump out boats and pump out stations in New Jersey's coastal waters. The remaining 25 percent is provided by the State of New Jersey through the "Shore to Please" license plate program.
In addition, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders provides operational funds to the operators in an amount up to $20,000 per boat, and the County also partners with the Ocean County Utilities Authority, which reimburses the County up to half of the operational costs each year up to $50,000 for the five pump out boats.
Vicari commended the boat captains for their continuing interest in protecting the bay and also for keeping a watchful eye on the waterways.
"The Captains are the key to the success of the program," Vicari said. "From Jerry Golembeski and Robert Cardwell in Seaside Park, Harry Thorne and Mark Byrne in Brick Township and George Ward and Dick Gouldey at the Tuckerton Seaport, they are all dedicated to this program and the many benefits that come with it."
The pumpout boats typically operate from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September. The boats are usually in service from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Monday and can be contacted on the marine VHF radio channel 9 by identifying the boat, its location and service requested. The boats are also in operation on holidays and special events during the warm weather."
"From the captains to the hosting towns and organizations to the Ocean County Utilities Authority to the county staff that works directly with the program, this is a free service we can be proud of," Little said. "It makes a difference every summer season."