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Feb 2012 | CAHM&PC Slack Tide | The Green Column

By Diane Isley, Harbormaster at Emery Cove Yacht Harbor and CAHM&PC Treasurer

Last February Emery Cove implemented an addendum to our liveaboard agreement in order to document monitoring of the waste handling of our liveaboard tenants. Emery Cove chose to monitor the waste handling for several reasons, one being the State Water Board effort to pass a Coastal Marina Permit which would have required water quality monitoring at an approximate cost of $200,000.00 annually.

We chose monitoring as a proactive approach to show the marina efforts to control sources that may affect water quality and provide documentation that our liveaboards practice proper waste disposal.

Our documentation includes inspecting liveaboard vessels to confirm that the Y-valve is legally secured in the closed position as required by the U.S. Coast Guard. This inspection is logged and dated. In addition the liveaboard tenant is requested to choose one of the following monitoring options:

1. Mobile Pump out service. We confirm with the mobile pump out company that our tenant is on a scheduled service and ask to be notified if it is cancelled. Another option is to require receipts from the tenant.

2. Use of pump out station with staff confirmation. Liveaboards call the office while at the pump out or if after hours call with the date/time on our answer phone.

3. Monthly dye tab placed in the holding tank. This option requires staff boarding the vessel monthly and flushing the dye tab in the tank.

4. If the liveaboard does not use their head or refuses to report, then we place a special sticker on the Y-valve with our signature and date and check it annually. We could make it easier and simply check all the tagged Y-valves annually but our effort is to be able to provide documentation that the liveaboards actively practice proper waste disposal.

The monitoring has run smoothly this past year with very little effort. We keep a spreadsheet with the liveaboards listed down the page and the twelve months across the top. Staff simply initials when they call and are at the pump out. We can confirm this from our office.

The mobile pump out services have been very helpful and companies such as Association member BayGreen Marine Sanitation have a reporting option wherein the marina may receive monthly reports that even include how many gallons were emptied for each service.

BayGreen has been instrumental in supporting the Honey Pot Days with the Department of Boating and Waterways/SF Estuary Program in the Delta and SF Bay, working with agencies on committees, offering pump out repair service to marina operators to keep broken pump outs up and running, and creating easy-to-use online tools for both boat owners and marina operators.

Approximately half our liveaboards chose the pump out option with staff confirmation and about half chose a mobile service. No one chose a monthly boarding dye tab. We have one vessel with a compost head and two that never use their head at all which we tagged and check annually.

To initially get all the Y-Valves documented we chose a four hour period for three days in a row including one weekend day and asked the tenants a month in advance to call and make an appointment. The Y-valve inspection only takes a few minutes.

During my recent Clean Marina Re-certification I was asked to share our proactive effort with Association members. Emery Cove felt monitoring may be beneficial to water quality discussions and to the liveaboard tenants who often get the finger pointed in their direction. If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me at

The Boater Education Program is funded by the Clean Vessel Act Grant Program. Together, with our sister National Estuary Program, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation and lead state grant coordinator, California Department of Boating and Waterways, we make up the statewide partnership to promote installation and proper use of sanitary pumpout and dump stations in marinas and harbors.