The Town of Shelter Island is acquiring a pump-out boat — a vessel that takes boaters’ waste and disposes of it properly — that will serve the town and the village of Dering Harbor, Greenport, Southold, Sag Harbor, Noyac, and North Haven.
“We are a maritime community, so acquiring a pump-out boat made the most sense and will help the environment. It will be based in Shelter Island and shared with the surrounding towns as needed,” said Dering Harbor Mayor John Colby. “We hope to have it in the water by the end of summer.”
Obtaining the boat was made possible with $120,000 of available funds from the East End Economic and Environmental Institute. It’s a result of a resolution proposed by Mayor Colby at a meeting of the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association in late February.
It was then Supervisor Jay Schneiderman of Southampton made the motion to accept the resolution, and it passed unanimously.
“A pump-out boat based on Shelter Island would take pressure off both Greenport and Southold and demonstrates our commitment to clean water,” said Greenport Mayor George Hubbard.
The boat’s purchase was approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which Colby said was a necessary step for the funding to be released.
“Serving the great Peconic Estuary system from Plum Island to Gardiner’s Island to Riverhead, a pump-out boat would help alleviate DEC concern aimed at mitigating nitrogen intrusion into surrounding waters,” Mayor Colby said.
Pumping raw sewage into the water causes excessive nitrogen and chemicals into the area, which in turn creates algae blooms, increased disease potential for shellfish areas, and can also close areas for swimming.
Mayor Colby explained that because “not all pump-out boats are created equal, it can be extremely hard to get spare parts.”
“We need to purchase and locate the boat we want. We’re trying to coordinate with Southold and Greenport, who each already have pump-out boats, to get a comparable vessel in case one goes down,” he said.
According to Mayor Colby, boaters are legally allowed to dump their waste at least five miles from shore. Yet the mayor says it’s common knowledge that boaters don’t always follow protocol.
“The water gets really dirty during the summer, so this is a way to offer additional help for waste when people are anchored for the weekend,” he said.
Shelter Island’s pump-out boat will join not only Greenport and Southold’s, but six others that are part of Southampton’s Pump Out Boat Program.
“It’s a really great thing that’s helping the environment. And the community will know it’s there to use it when it is needed,” Mayor Colby said.
While pump-out boat programs vary slightly between Twin Fork towns, they exist for the same reason — the Peconic and South Shore Estuaries and Greenport Harbor are designated “Vessel Waste No Discharge Zones.”
On the South Fork, six POBs work out of Mill Creek, Cold Spring, Westhampton, North Sea, Hampton Bays, Sag Harbor, Montauk, and Springs.
Meanwhile, on the North Fork, the service is available in Cutchogue Harbor Marina, Brewer’s Marina and Sterling Harbor Marina in Greenport, Port of Egypt Marina and Brick Cove Marinas in Southold, and Greenport Harbor.
The POBs are all available to serve recreational boaters in need of waste removal approximately from Memorial Day through October 31, but the schedule varies slightly by town.
They can be contacted on marine radio CH 73 to arrange a time and meeting place for waste removal. Fees may vary between towns because some marinas have received grants to cover the services while others have not.