Council Discusses Possible Pumpout Program

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The sun rises over the moorings in Newport Harbor. — Photo by Sara Hall ©
The sun rises over the moorings in Newport Harbor.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Mooring permit holders may soon see a free or discounted mobile pumpout service offered through the city as part of a pilot program discussed by Newport Beach City Council this week.

Staff presented the idea of a vessel sewage pumpout program for mooring permittees during Tuesday’s study session.

The program is meant to provide a “convenience amenity” to mooring permittees and renting visitors and promote water quality in the harbor, said Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller.

“It would be a good way to help keep the harbor cleaner,” said Councilman Ed Selich, who liked the idea.

Selich and several other council members were on board with offering the service at a discounted rate instead of as a complimentary service, as Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield suggested.

“Just so we have some skin in the game,” Duffield said.

It has the potential to be a great program, but it needs to be done carefully, agreed Carter Ford, a member of the board of directors of the Newport Mooring Association.

Ford and council members suggested the program return to the Harbor Commission for discussion and fine tuning.

The program was scheduled for discussion at the June 8 Harbor Commission meeting, but since four of the commissioners had to recuse themselves and one was absent they did not have a quorum and the item was continued.

Miller and Duffield brainstormed on the idea a few months ago.

Failing equipment was part of the motivation to create the program, Duffield said.

“Most of the time, sadly, our equipment is down on those docks and those pumpouts are quite delicate and they tend to be abused, in some ways, and fail to operate,” he said.

It can be quite a hassle, he continued, which discourages some people from using them. They try to keep them running as best they can, but it can be a challenge, Duffield said. It is also very expensive to fix them, he added.

The concept is “We’ll come to you” to pumpout the boat, rather than the boaters going to the local stations, Miller explained.

It will further promote water quality by reducing or removing the temptation to illegally discharge in the harbor. The city has also been working on an idea of using dye tabs to test sewage holding tanks in order to further ensure water quality and discourage illegal dumping in the harbor.

The pumpout program will also prolong the life of the city’s existing stations, Miller explained. There are currently five city owned and maintained pumpout stations in four locations on public piers and the Balboa yacht basin, he noted.

It will also, hopefully, promote increased use of the mooring vessels and improve the overall boating experience in the harbor.

Overall, it’s an added value for the permit holders, Miller said.

“The program is fairly simple,” Miller said.

A mooring permittee would call one of the services, they would come out to their boat, pump out their vessel, and then that service provider would invoice the city once a month. Vendors submit the monthly invoice along with the mooring number, name, vessel name and length, and approximately the amount of gallons pumped, for each time they provided the pumpout service.

Only vessels with external, accessible waste deck fitting will be served (no vessel boarding) and there would be no fresh water flush or head repairs (unclogs). Cancelled appointments would result in a trip charge of $15.

Staff recommended up to three complimentary pumpouts per moored vessel, per month, to “keep the program in check and avoid abuse” of the program, Miller said.

The city has already sent out a request for proposal and two vessel sewage companies responded, Mobile Harbor Services and Royal Flush Pumping Service. They averaged both their offers and tentatively agreed upon the rate between the city and the vendor at $27.50 per pumpout under 100 gallons.

Mooring permittees could choose either company for service.

The city would likely contract each of the companies for equal amounts of time for approximately $25,000 each.

The program would last one year or until funds are depleted.

“I would hope the funds deplete well before one year which would indicate that people are using it,” Miller said.

The Bay Foundation has agreed to develop and donate an informational flyer for the program. Details about the program would also be included in all notices sent to mooring permittees, distributed by harbor patrol as needed, and listed on the city’s website.

City staff would review the use and effectiveness throughout program to determine if it should be continued.

Resident Gary Hill emphasized the importance of reviewing the statistics of the program to find out who is using the program and if it‘s useful to have in the harbor. Overall, he liked the idea of the program.

“I think this is great,” Hill said. “I think it would be fabulous.”

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