November 25, 2014
DEP, MONROE COUNTY PARTNER TO CREATE SUCCESSFUL PUMPOUT PROGRAM
Monroe County, the Florida Keys, partnering with the state of Florida Department of Environmental Protection Clean Vessel Act (DEP CVA) has successfully created a Keys-wide mobile pumpout program, serving all boaters in unincorporated Monroe County and providing free pump out service.
Back in 2013, the Keys had only a couple of sewage pump-out boats that operated sporadically in certain areas (Key West, Marathon and Key Largo). Some of these operations charged upward of $25 per pumpout of a vessel.
The county’s goal is to provide a holistic approach to pumpouts Keys-wide to protect the environment and water quality in the only coral reef in the nation, and avoid potential illegal discharge of vessel sewage.
The start-up of the program required seed funding for a new vendor: Pumpout USA. The county provided up-front funding of $98,267 for the first quarter of service. After running for two years, annual operations total $765,975 with funding of $329,222 by the county and $436,753 by the DEP CVA program.
The county-wide program has grown into a highly successful program, currently performing more than 1,500 pumpouts per month in a 120-mile long county with numerous areas where boaters anchor and live. These pumpout numbers translate into the disposal of more than 280,000 gallons of sewage each year, which might otherwise be discharged directly into the water. This can create a health hazard and contribute to nutrient loading, which directly impacts our reef system.
The provision and use of the vessel pumpout service furthers the objectives of, and compliance with, the “No Discharge Zone,” which surrounds the Florida Keys and encompasses the entire Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In September 2014, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners, recognizing the success and benefits of the mobile vessel pumpout service, approved an extension of the program through 2016, of course subject to renewed funding in the CVA program.
The mobile pumpout service is also critical to the effectiveness of ‘managed anchoring zones’ in the Key West area (including Boca Chica basin, Cow Key Channel and Key West harbor) within which vessels are required to have proof of pumpout. Monthly color-coded pumpout stickers are displayed on vessels registered for the pumpout service. Boaters can call 305-900-0263 to schedule a pumpout or register online for routine pumpout service at www.po-keys.com.
Monroe County recognizes the accomplishment of the vessel pumpout program, the assistance provided by the CVA program and most importantly the participation of responsible vessel owners helping to ensure a clean and safe marine environment for all to enjoy.
This strong partnership between Monroe County, the state of Florida and the public is a model others can follow to protect all of Florida’s waters.