News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Florida Keys: Mobile vessel pump-out services may be temporarily suspended as of July 1

Date Posted: 2020-06-23
Source: Addison Chan, Special Correspondent

Funding issues could affect boaters' ability to get pump out services. On June 17, 2020, The Board of County Commissioners for Munroe County, FL voted to approve the issuance of an RFP to provide Keys-wide Mobile Vessel Sewage Pump Out Services.

According to Celia Hutchins the Munroe County Senior Administrator, Marine Resources the RFP process will take between 3 and 6 months to complete and a closing date for RFP submissions have not yet been announced.

After the vote boaters were given the following notice by Pumpout Florida Keys, the current service provider: “On June 17th, 2020 Munroe County informed us that due to Covid-19 there will be insufficient funding to continue the pump out program in its current form” therefore effective the close of business on June 30 Pump Out USA will no longer be providing pump-out services in Munroe County…”

According to Captain Donny Brown the principal of Pump Out USA, discussions are ongoing and both he and senior Munroe County officials are motivated to reach a successful conclusion prior to the June 30 expiration date of the current contract in order to maintain service. In the meantime, the county is in discussions with other municipalities and private entities to establish a temporary service in the affected areas.

The pump-out service which employs a fleet of 8 purpose-built vessels has been in place since 2013. It is free to boaters and is funded in part by County Boater Improvement Funds which originate from surcharges on boater registrations and in part by State of Florida appropriations and grants.

It enables boaters in the Keys, particularly those who live aboard their vessels, to observe the no discharge laws that are in place to protect the federally designated Marine Sanctuary waters which cover the entire Florida Keys. Last year the service removed over 400,000 gallons of raw sewage from the marine ecosystem of the Keys and Brown claims that since the program has been in effect there have been no beach closures in Munroe County due to sewage contamination.

Boaters in the designated mooring fields of Key West and Boot Key Harbor Marathon are unaffected by the change but unless an agreement is reached within the next week vessels anchored outside of designated areas will need to use shoreside facilities and be able to provide receipts dated within 30 days as proof that they are following the sanitation laws.

For transient boaters, it is important to plan stops accordingly. It is also recommended that boaters keep receipts to prove when a vessel entered the Florida Keys or received a pump-out as proof of compliance with the law.

Munroe County officials have acknowledged the inconvenience that will be experienced by the 7-800 boaters who are immediately impacted by the end of the service. Hutchins has reminded all boaters that there are several free or low-cost alternatives available nearby and it is the responsibility of boat owners to ensure that their vessel is capable of navigating to an appropriate facility to discharge their sewage. Waterway Guide is following this developing story.

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  • Comment submitted by Capt Steve - Wed, Jun 24th

    We switched to a Nature's Head (composting head) five years ago. The trials and tribulations, and availability, of pumping out is no longer an issue for us. There's something to be said for being independent of the dreaded pump-out hose.

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