If you spend much time on your boat, it’s probably got a head. What you put into the head can’t go into the Bay. It’s against the law to pump effluent into the Bay or its tributaries or within three miles of the U.S. coastline.
Porta-potties you can carry yourself to sewage stations. Holding tanks are not portable. Most Clean Marinas have pump-out service, subsidized by Maryland Department of Natural Resources through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Anne Arundel has 37 pump-out stations in 47 clean marinas; all seven of Calvert’s certified Clean Marinas have pump-out service. Marinas with 50-plus slips that can berth vessels of more than 22 feet must have a pump-out station.
Sometimes, the pump-out will come to you.
Publicly funded pump-out boats operate in Annapolis, along the Severn River and Spa Creek, and along the West and Rhode rivers. Boaters at Herrington Harbour South can call for in-slip mobile pump-outs. All are subsidized by DNR.
Charges for subsidized pump-outs are a $5 donation. Private stations and pump-out boats set their own fees.
It’s easy, it’s cheap — but still some boaters don’t do it.
“Some is ignorance, and some is just ignoring the law,” says Capt. Michael DeRogatis, who performs pump-outs aboard the West/Rhode Riverkeeper’s Honey Dipper. “They figure, I’m just one person. It can’t be that bad. But if everyone has that attitude,” the waters cannot handle it.
Education comes with each pump-out, as DeRogatis talks up the rivers and their health. He also tells boaters where it’s safer to swim, based on bacteria loads, which is separate from the rivers’ health grade.
In season, DeRogatis does 20 to 25 pump-outs on an average day. For a $50 contribution to the West/Rhode Riverkeeper, boaters get unlimited pump-outs for the season.
DeRogatis is typically within an hour’s ride of your call: 410-940-3754 or hailing Honey Dipper on VHF channel 71. Through May 28, Capt. Michael’s hours are Saturday through Monday, 8am to 6pm. Starting May 29, he’ll handle pump-outs Friday through Monday, 8am to 6pm.
Find Clean Marinas and pump-out locations at dnr.maryland.gov/boating along with tips for clean-boating practices.