The Coast News Group
The blue pedestal is a game changer in water quality efforts. An $82,000 CalRecycle grant paid for the bilge pumpout system. The Bay Foundation partnered with Oceanside Harbor marina to secure the grant. Photo by Promise Yee
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New boat bilge pumpout system is a game changer in clean water efforts

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Harbor recently gained a state-of-the-art boat bilge pumpout system. The dockside system separates 99 percent of oil from water a boat takes on, and keeps that oil out of the ocean.

It is the third pumpout system along the Southern California coastline. The system was funded by a $82,000 CalRecycle grant.

Boaters can pull up to the harbor launch ramp 24/7 and use the pumpout system free of charge. The housed system deposits separated oil into a collection barrel, and harbor staff ensures it is properly disposed.

“It’s intended for the good of the ocean,” Paul Lawrence, Oceanside harbor manager, said. “I hope to encourage other harbors and marinas to take similar steps.”

“We all want the same thing (a clean ocean),” Lawrence added. “I’m someone who cares deeply about ocean water quality.”

Lawrence said bilge pumpout is not a daily need, but when it is needed it’s essential. Rain, wash water, oil, fuel and antifreeze can collect in a boat’s bilge, which is the lowest compartment on a vessel.

Without a bilge pumpout system boaters are left to use absorbent pads, or call a professional service to clean oil out of bilges. At worst, boat owners may emulsify oil with soap and pump the hazardous waste overboard.

“Sooner or later we’re all going to need it,” Lawrence said. “It’s free, and it’s available.

I encourage people to use it.”

The pumpout system utilizes advanced technology, similar to that used for oil refineries and clean up of major spills. Unlike other boat pumpout systems it does not need chemicals, a filter or heated water to operate.

“It’s an amazing design,” Lawrence said. “It’s reliable and uses very little electricity.”

The system is manufactured in Italy. The team who built it flew in for the recognition ceremony Dec. 11, and demonstrated how it separates oil from water.

Also there were representatives of The Bay Foundation, who partnered with Oceanside Harbor to pursue the CalRecycle grant. Victoria Gambale, foundation water quality programs manager, said Oceanside was selected as a grant partner because it had a building to house the system, staff and funds to maintain it and a reliable track record with the foundation.

“We have a great relationship with them, and knew the equipment would be well maintained there,” Gambale said.

Gambale said grant goals are to keep waters clean, educate boaters about green practices and provide an example for other harbors.

System usage and impact will be analyzed in one year.

Santa Barbara and Channel Island Harbor public marinas also have bilge pumpouts. Both marinas said the pumps make a significant difference in keeping oil out of the harbors. Santa Barbara will also begin to record pump use to verify its impact.

Gambale said she would like to see bilge pumpouts become standard equipment in every marina.