Wednesday, December 28, 2016
KEY LARGO — The Monroe County Commission recognized Pumpout USA for an environmental milestone. This month the mobile vessel pump-out service collected its 1 millionth gallon of sewage under the county’s free service for boats anchored in Florida Keys waters.
It would take a pool 267 feet long (nearly the length of a football field), 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep to hold 1 million gallons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The milestone occurred on Dec. 8, when Pumpout USA removed the human waste from a 49-foot schooner named S/V Bliss that is owned by Rhon Opiela and anchored off Fleming Key in Key West Harbor.
The program, funded by the state and county, has been free to boaters from Key Largo to Key West since its inception in January 2013. Pumpout USA properly disposes of the sewage at marina facilities throughout the county.
At the Dec. 14 commission meeting in Key Largo, Rich Jones, senior administrator of Monroe County’s Marine Resources Office, presented Pumpout USA president Donnie Brown with a “golden toilet” paper weight that reads: “No. 1 in the business of No. 2.” Jones also presented him with a plaque.
Over the past four years, Pumpout USA has steadily increased its registered customer base to 2,182. Pumpout USA now has seven boats that operate throughout the island chain. Six can hold 350 gallons of sewage and a smaller one launched from boat ramps holds 200 gallons, said John Andzelik, supervising captain of Pumpout USA.
Before the contracted service began in 2013, the county operated one pump-out vessel in Key Largo, and the Lower Keys had a couple of privately operated sewage pump-out boats that operated sporadically and in limited locations, charging up to $25 per pump out.
In 2013, the county partnered with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to start the Keys-wide pump out program. The county provided start-up funds of $98,000 for the first quarter of the service. The DEP provided funding through its Clean Vessel Act Program. In September 2014, the county commission approved an extension of the program through 2016.
In July, with the state providing $500,000 to operate the program for one more year, the county again approved an extension of the program and approved keeping it free to boaters. Pump-outs now run about 1,600 to 2,000 per month in the program.
The state’s contribution pays for 92 percent of the program for a one-year period that began July 1. The other funding for the pump-out service, which costs $729,800 for the year, comes from a CVA grant of $172,350 and the county’s match of that grant of $57,000, which comes from boater improvement funds generated from boat registration fees.
Boaters can call 305-900-0263 to schedule a pump-out, or they can register online for routine pump-pout service at po-keys.com.