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After pumpout problems, town and village hope to work together

This summer was a tough one for pumpout boats, which are meant to prevent boat waste from being discharged into local waterways, where it can lead to water quality degradation.

Greenport Village’s pumpout boat was out of service for a good part of the summer and officials said Southold Town’s pumpout boat also broke down a few times.

Now, the municipalities are hoping to work together acquire newer and better boats and also to work together on an agreement that would enable them to help each other out if a pumpout boat goes down.

After the Greenport pumpout boat’s engine broke down in the spring, the village bought a new engine and had it back in service by July 1, according to village administrator Paul Pallas.

But then the pump broke, putting the boat out of service again until a new pump was installed in early August.

Southold Town’s pumpout boat broke down during the July 4th weekend, but Trustee John Bredemeyer was able to repair it and it was out only for a few hours, according to Supervisor Scott Russell.

It went down again in the middle of the week in mid-August when the gas tank failed, but the Trustees got it working again by that weekend, the supervisor said.

Mr. Russell said he, Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. and Southold Trustees Mr. Bredemeyer and Mike Domino recently “discussed it and decided we should craft an inter-municipal agreement so that we can share resources to ensure continuous operation of at least one pumpout boat, should one become inoperable. The agreement should also put us in a better position to qualify for grants in the future.”

“We want to try to work together so there’s parts available so that in case either one of us has a problem with our boat, we will be able to get it back up and running as quickly as possible,” Mr. Hubbard said.

“It’s unfortunate because we were not aware that Greenport’s boat was down,” Mr. Bredemeyer said in an interview. “We actually had a spare pump that we could have helped them with.”

The village and town are each hoping to get grant money to buy new pumpout boats, which would ideally have compatible parts, according to Mr. Bredemeyer. The state’s Clean Vessel Program provides grants of up to 60 percent of the cost for pumpout boats, he added.

Riverhead Town recently got a $60,000 state grant for a $100,000 pumpout boat, according to officials in that town.

Southold had two pumpout boats and, after a bid process, recently sold one of them to Strong’s Waterpark in Mattituck Creek, Mr. Russell said. “The cost of repairs were prohibitive at this point,” he said.

Both town boats were over 10 years old and the one they sold needed a new engine, which was expected to cost about $11,000, according to Mr. Russell.

The one they kept is stationed in Greenport, he said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently refurbished its pumpout station on Mattituck Creek and plans to establish another one at the new Hashamomouk boat launching ramp planned for Peconic Bay in Southold, according to Mr. Bredemeyer.

With the two DEC pumpout stations, and a pumpout boat at Strong’s, he “We’re looking at much better coverage.”

The town is prohibited by law from providing service to private marinas, he said. The pumpout boats can service vessels at sea without facing such restrictions, he said.

Both Greenport and Southold officials say most boaters prefer to discharge to a pumpout boat than to a fixed pumpout station because its more convenient.

Mr. Hubbard said there was no indication that water quality suffered while the village pumpout boat was out of service.

“Most people were still complying,” he said in an interview. “Some people say they saw stuff floating in the water; that was exaggerated. There was nothing like that.”

He said it’s against federal and state law to discharge boat waste into a no-discharge zone such as the Peconic Estuary, and a person could go to jail for doing so.

Mr. Bredemeyer, who also chairs the town’s shellfish advisory committee, said compliance with pumpout requirements has been good in Southold waters as well, and water quality has been “trending upward” in the past six years or so.

“But we still have some issues,” he said. “We believe it might be from pre-existing old sanitary systems, plus we also have a lot wildlife,” which contributes to water quality issues.

He said boaters seem to be “trying very hard” to comply with discharge laws.

CORRECTION: The length of time Southold Town’s pumpout boat was broke during July 4th weekend was a few hours, not days, according to Supervisor Scott Russell.

Photo caption: A Village of Greenport pumpout boat. (Credit: Kelly Zegers, file)

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