Solar-powered Pumpout Unit Launched in Port Townsend

Port Townsend, Washington is getting a clean water boost with a new solar-powered pumpout unit that will help provide more options for boaters to properly dispose of their sewage.

The unit was commissioned by the Port of Port Townsend and built by the nearby Northwest School of Wooden BoatBuilding. The equipment is a self-contained module that includes a 250-gallon waste tank, high-capacity pump, hoses, batteries and solar and AC charging equipment that can be put on the deck of any workboat to turn it into a mobile pumpout.

The solar-powered unit was in part inspired by Clean Bay, a zero-emissions pumpout boat built by the Boat School that is now operating at the Port Ludlow Marina. That project was, in large part, motivated by the potential to train the next generation of boat builders.

Similarly, building the new pumpout unit provided cutting-edge educational fodder for Boat School students. That diversified functionality is a key part of what makes the new unit so inventive.

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The unit will be used on the Port’s Munson Utility Workboat; it was put on the workboat for the first time in late August for a trial run.

Pumping out boater sewage, rather than dumping it overboard, is not only the right thing to do for the sake of coastal ecosystems and communities — in Puget Sound, it’s the law. As recreational boating continues to gain popularity in Washington, however, there is a growing need for more pumpouts to meet the demand. The new Port Townsend unit will help fill this need, especially since boaters are particularly interested in more mobile pumpout services that come to them.

The project was funded through a grant from the Washington State Clean Vessel Act (CVA) program. “Washington State Park’s CVA program is working closely with ports and marinas to increase pumpout options throughout the Salish Sea,” says Catherine Buchalski Smith, manager of the Washington CVA program.

In addition to funding infrastructure, the CVA program educates boaters on the importance of safe and legal sewage disposal through Pumpout Washington, an educational outreach program run by Washington Sea Grant (WSG) with funding from the Washington State Parks CVA Program.

Aaron Barnett, WSG boating program specialist, launched Pumpout Washington in 2012 and has since worked with individuals and organizations across the state to make it easier for boaters to maintain good water quality. For example, Barnett has been a supporter of the Clean Bay project for years. “It is inspiring to see the Port and Boat School take the concept of a solar-powered pumpout boat and apply it in a new direction,” Barnett says.