April 12, 2013 | by Peter Schrappen and Ben Lee
Puget Sound’s health relies on all of us to remain mindful of our actions and impacts. Discharge of black water into Puget Sound is one of those actions. But there are rules to follow already (like no dumping of black water within three miles of the shoreline) so another regulatory “stick” like the proposed No Discharge Zone has our community asking Department of Ecology some very tough questions during their discernment process.
Regardless of what comes of that, there’s another approach out there that we can point out and celebrate. PumpMeOut, the mobile holding tank pump-out service plying the waters from Anacortes to the South Sound and everywhere in between, offers a convenient cost-effective service and gets to the heart of the matter of keeping sewage out of Puget Sound. One more great example of how the market is coming through for us (and the environment).
We recently sat down with the father-son and black lab crew at PumpMeOut – Dwight, Jeff and doggy Esther – to learn more about what they do and how they are literally cleaning up Puget Sound (and having a blast doing it).
CBF: How did you get the idea for Pump Me Out?
Dwight: It was my son Jeff’s idea. He had a detailing company serving the Seattle area and saw the need for a different kind of pumpout service – offering great customer service – especially serving the salt water side of our world. He came up with a business plan and I came out of retirement to have some fun on the water.
CBF: What’s the biggest misnomer about pumping out?
Jeff: That it is a smelly or dirty job. There is no need to get dirty (but it does happen sometimes, darnmit) We stay clean most every day, and the boats we service stay clean and odor free.
CBF: What’s the funniest thing you’ve run into?
Dwight: Hmmmm – A Poop geyser like Old Faithful. Reached bow and stern of a 36′ sailboat. Impressive. Cap went about 6 feet in the air. Caught it on the way down. Then I hosed off. Didn’t I just say we stay clean? OK, it wasn’t funny at the time….
Jeff: The locks are always entertaining – After over 1200 trips through the locks I’ve seen it all. Oh, and the endless poop jokes. No, really – they just never stop.
Esther: Those crazy birds – First they are flying, then they dive under water. Make up your mind!!
CBF: How do you see boater’s attitudes changing towards holding tanks and pumpouts?
Dwight: We’re seeing a gradual but steady shift. Nobody likes pumping out, but more and more people see it just as part of their boating lifestyle. It’s like recycling was not that long ago. When they get into the new habit, and see it’s not really a pain, it’s no problem.
Jeff:Marinas are helping folks change their approach to pumping. Slipside pumpout service is becoming more common – whether it’s done using pipes or boats. Once pumping out is as convenient as water or electricity, it becomes part of the routine – for a whole marina.
Esther: Do I get a treat now?
CBF: What’s the advantage of using your service?
Dwight: We are about as close to flush and forget as you’re going to find. No need to stop by the pumpout on your way home. No guilt about dumping. Tank rinsed every time and odor treatment added so you come back to a good smelling boat. And you get a free roll of TP!
Esther: If you get pumped out, you get to give me a treat.
CBF: Why is your job the best one in the world?
Dwight: I get to spend my days on the water – it’s a no brainer ! (OK, fine – yes the boat is full of poop, but I’m still on the water)
Jeff: I get to meet interesting people, hop on some really cool boats and spend time on the water
Esther: I get dog treats going through the locks, I get to swim in the lake on a hot summer day. I get dog treats from lots of the boats Jeff pumps. I get treats when I visit my friends in the Foss office. I guess it’s the treats – yup – the treats. Never enough treats.
CBF: What could the state do better to get people to pump out (either with you or with a standard pumpout)?
Dwight: There’s a lot of talk about a No Discharge Zone. I don’t know how that change would affect my business. I do know that the messaging around changing behavior needs to improve. As a society, we are influenced by creative messaging all the time. Sadly, the messaging around “Pump don’t Dump” remains stale and as ineffective as ever. We talk with boaters all the time. One thing that seems to have some relevance with them is the fact that we don’t throw our trash in our frontyards. That’s not seen as okay. It’s the same thing with poop. It’s not okay to just dump it overboard.
CBF: How do you really feel about a No Discharge Zone?
Dwight: I’m having trouble seeing how it would be enforced. The Coast Guard already has the jurisdiction to enforce the Clean Water Act and illegal dumping. As I understand it, the No Discharge Zone will give local areas the power to enforce the Clean Water Act. Last time I checked, we have no money in our state or local governments.
CBF: So what’s the solution?
Dwight: I’d like to say “use our service”, but like most things, it’s complicated. As they say in fishing, “you fish where the fish are.” We need to take mobile pumpouts to where the boaters are. Have you been to the San Juans? There are five pumpouts there. If the water quality issue is as serious as they say it is, we need more funding for pumpouts, more money for maintenance of pumpouts and more effective social marketing campaigns to change behavior. You asked.
Find PumpMeOut on their website at http://pumpmeout.com/
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