A picturesque day on Casco Bay last week was perfect as any for a pump out – and the Headmaster is up and running for service this season.
The Boat Pumpout Service’s new coordinator, Chris Gilday, a former commercial fisherman and lifelong mariner, spent his week meeting boaters where they are, and even made a stop to service DiMillo’s on the Water Friday morning.
“All that (waste) is not going into the bay,” Gilday said. “That’s pretty cool.”
It was a quick stop as Gilday and his dog, Edward (on his first trip aboard the Headmaster), pulled up and connected to the pump-out station, allowing the sewage to pass onto the boat. Throughout the summer, Gilday anticipates he’ll be stopping there a few times a week.
The service, run by Friends of Casco Bay, is making its return after a hiatus since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The pump-out program is a way for boaters to legally and practically get rid of their boats’ sewage, from South Portland up to Freeport. The Headmaster can hold as much as 600 gallons – about 4,800 pounds – of waste.
Gilday, who’s been on the water for his whole life – citing a photo of himself as an infant in 1964 on his dad’s sailboat – said taking care of the bay has improved its quality.
“It’s the difference between A and Z,” he said, compared to 1999 when he had his own fishing boat. Even after heavy rain the day before, which would typically leave the water murkier, the bay was clear as much as six feet below the surface.
“That was an impossibility back then,” Gilday said.
Casco Bay became the first federally designated No Discharge Area in Maine in 2006, meaning it’s illegal to dump blackwater (raw or partially treated sewage) into the bay. There are now four more NDAs in the state: Boothbay, Kennebunk and Wells, Southern Mount Desert, and West Penobscot Bay.
Gilday said a lot of new boaters are using the pump-out program, and many others are in it for the convenience factor. Lots of customers, he said, have their boats tied to moorings and would rather not bother with the busy docks, so the Headmaster goes right to them.
One result of there being so many new boaters since the start of the pandemic, Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca explained, is that they might not be aware the bay is an NDA and might be dumping their sewage in it as a result.
Pam Parker of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Bureau of Water Quality, which oversees federal funding for the pump-out program, said there’s nothing else like this program in Maine: it services the largest and highest density of boats in the state “by far.”
Parker said people really missed the service while it was gone, and the educational value that Friends brings to the table is invaluable. It reduces the excuses people can make about not pumping out their sewage, she said, whether it’s because they don’t know how or the pump-out station is “too far.”
She said everybody doing their part to reduce the pollution that goes into the bay is “kind of a no-brainer.”
Since the program was launched in 1995, it has helped keep as much as 254,000 gallons of sewage out of the bay, according to Friends. The EPA has said that untreated sewage from a single boater has the same amount of bacteria as sewage from 10,000 people that’s been treated at a sewage plant – and with so many boaters on Casco Bay that can add up quickly.
The Friends pump-out program requires boaters to fill out an online form to schedule their service, and it costs $10 for a 20-gallon tank of waste. Once the Headmaster fills up, it can stop at any of the bay’s 21 designated dumping stations and empty its tank.
Finishing up his work on Friday, Gilday said he’d already received a pump-out request for Monday, which didn’t bother him a bit; he’d be out on the water all day every day, he said, if he could.
The program allows him to do what he loves.
“That’s the price to pay to get out on the ocean,” Gilday said.
Everitt continues at Friends of Casco Bay
Friends of Casco Bay announced that Will Everitt, who has been serving as interim executive director of the environmental nonprofit since September 2021, has been selected for the full-time position.
Everitt was the organization’s communications and development director for more than 15 years. He was named acting executive director when Cathy Ramsdell retired after 18 years in the position.
In its announcement, Friends of Casco Bay noted Everitt’s efforts to grow membership and complete a $1.5 million campaign for its Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be chosen as our executive director,” Everitt said in a prepared statement. “I’m energized by this work and by the dedication of our supporters, our staff, and our board.”
Everitt said his priority is looking holistically at the group’s mission to protect the bay from the biggest threats it faces, such as climate change.
“If we’re doing our job right, we can address big issues and create ripple effects that go far beyond Casco Bay,” he said.
Before joining Friends of Casco Bay, Everitt directed Community Action Works’ Portland office, where he helped communities across New England protect themselves from leaking landfills, sludge spreading, and toxic pesticide spraying. He was also Maine state director of the League of Young Voters and is a graduate of Rutgers University in New Jersey.
— Evan Edmonds