State, Fed agencies offer free, mobile boat-sewage pumpouts to safeguard water quality

The nearest pumpout station where he could discharge his sewage holding tank was at Carillon Point, about 10 miles away in Kirkland. “It took two hours and at least $100 in fuel to get there, discharge, and come back,” Durfee recalls. He’d heard that rather than bear that cost, some boaters illegally dumped their sewage in the lake, polluting the water and threatening human health.

So Durfee acquired a 300-gallon pumpout boat, which he keeps on call to take up boat sewage anywhere on Lake Washington and Portage Bay. His service, Terry and Sons, has been an environmental success but, at $30 to $45 per pumpout, an unprofitable part-time business. Rather than shutting down, he turned for help to Pumpout Washington, a partnership of the Washington State Parks Boating Program’s Clean Vessel Act Program and Washington Sea Grant.

Washington Sea Grant helped Durfee apply for U.S. Clean Vessel Act (CVA) funding, which the State Parks Clean Vessel Program allocates to educate the boating community and install pumpout stations at marinas and other waterfront facilities throughout the state. On September 18, Durfee and Washington State Parks signed an agreement that will benefit both boaters and water quality in Washington’s most heavily used lake.

Durfee will convert his service to a nonprofit and provide free on-site pumpouts to pleasure craft. A CVA grant from Washington Parks will cover 75 per cent of the $300,000 annual budget; the remainder will come from marinas, yacht clubs, and other local donors.

Durfee will continue to serve Lake Washington and Portage Bay, but he wants to protect other popular waterways as well. “We will be expanding into Lake Union and Salmon Bay as equipment becomes available,” he says. “In the future we hope to expand into Puget Sound.”

“This will be a wonderful addition to our pumpout network,” says Alan Wolslegel, Washington State Parks’ CVA program manager. “There are for-pay mobile services available, but this is the first time the state is offering service for free. We’re exploring the potential to offer this in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Straits.”

Boats with holding tanks are required by law to pump rather than dump their sewage within three miles of the coast and in all inland waters. Pumping out helps protect the health of swimmers, boaters and shellfish consumers. Raw or poorly treated sewage can spread diseases such as hepatitis and dysentery and infect shellfish with norovirus, which causes a severe and highly contagious intestinal illness.

The federal Clean Vessel Act funds pumpout stations, pumpout boats, floating restrooms, educational outreach and onboard adapters that make pumping cleaner and easier through a tax on the sale of boats, yachts, recreational fishing gear and boat fuel. In addition to distributing the adapters, Washington Sea Grant has used funding from the State Parks Clean Vessel Program to create a Google map showing all 146 CVA pumpout locations in Washington. The map can be accessed using the QR code on the adapters’ instructions or at If your organization or yacht club would like free pumpout adapters for its members, please contact Aaron Barnett at (206) 616-8929 or

Washington Sea Grant provides statewide marine research, outreach and education services. The National Sea Grant College Program is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. More here.


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