DEEP Grants to Continue Supporting Marine Pumping Programs
Chester, Deep River, and Essex are among towns receiving funds through the federal Clean Vessel Act (CVA) program through Connecticut’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). The CVA program funds pumpout facilities to keep sewage from recreational boats out of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.
According to the program manager for the Chester Harbor Management Commission Joel Severance, the Lower Connecticut River Pumpout Boat Program, which services seven towns from the East Haddam Bridge to Long Island Sound, removed 110,000 gallons of waste from recreational boats during the 2016 boating season—26.6 percent more than the year before.
The pumpout boat programs were instituted to keep the river, tributaries, and boat basin waters clean and unpolluted by pumping out recreational boats. This keeps recreational boats from discharging sewage into the Sound and related waterways, which is illegal.
“This is something that is done at no charge to the boat owners or the municipalities,” said Severance, who emphasized the impact local boats have on the river. “There are 2,000 to 3,000 boats in the RiverCOG [Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments] area, with 876 in Chester alone.”
The Lower Connecticut River Pumpout Boat Program, of which the Town of Essex is the fiduciary, operated under its $124,599 budget for 2016 with annual expenses totaling $118,303.02. The program was awarded a grant of $90,026.57 for the 2017 boating year.
The program operates three pumpout vessels, two 23-footers with a 300-gallon tank each, and a 25-footer with a 400-gallon tank. These are operated by eight employees who comprise captains and crew, all of whom need to have their safe boating certificate. Additionally, the captains need to have demonstrable experience maneuvering small boats. The program runs one boat Monday through Friday, and two on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re very busy on the weekends. A lot of boaters from here go to Long Island Sound, and a long of people from New York come here,” said Severance.
Grant funds were also awarded to area marinas that have stationary pumpout facilities. Chrisholm Marina in Chester was awarded $11,408.81 for operation and maintenance of one stationary facility, one portable facility, and the upgrade of an existing stationary facility at a new location. Brewer Deep River Marina was awarded $14,759.44 for operation and maintenance of one stationary and one portable facility, Hays Haven Marina in Chester was awarded $3,750 for operation and maintenance of one stationary facility, and Brewer Dauntless Shipyard and Marina in Essex was awarded $19,202.25 for operation and maintenance of two stationary facilities and one portable facility.
“We take the collected materials from the boats to one of three sites, Brewer Deep River, Brewer Essex, or sometimes DEEP Marine Headquarters,” said Severance. “We offload it to landside locations, and it is then taken to sewer streaming plants.”
The service is valuable to the community because it preserves the environment. Sewage dumped into the water, whether from direct dumping by boats or from runoff from land has a number of negative impacts. Sewage leads to algae bloom due to too many nutrients in the water. The algae dies and decays, which lowers the level of oxygen in the water. This in turn stresses and kills fish.
Sewage also blocks light, which hurts underwater plants; as the plants die, the decay reduces oxygen levels as well. The Essex and Chester harbor management commissions distribute posters that outline the full impact of dumping sewage on the ecosystem, something that Severance believes to be important to helping people understand the importance of utilizing the program.
“Chester has four marinas and three yacht clubs. A lot of people don’t know that,” said Severance. “It’s a well-kept secret.
“Only about six percent of boats in Chester waters come from Chester residents,” continued Severance. “It’s a huge benefit to the town economically—they visit restaurants, get gas and food here, it’s just this large, secret industry.”
Compliance with the law and use of the program by both residents and visitors keeps Chester and the surrounding river area a pleasant place for marine recreation.
“The program received recognition at a national conference as an example of a multiple-municipality program last year,” said Severance.
For more information on the pumpout service, call Program Coordinator Kate Hughes Brown at 860-447-4340 or visit the DEEP website at www.ct.gov/deep/boating and search Pumpout Facilities Directory to access the Connecticut CVA Facilities/Pumpout Map. To request pumpout service, either call the boat at 860-463-9753, hail the boat on VHF Ch 72, or fly an orange pennant. The program operates from Memorial Day through the end of October.