As boating season ramps up, Sea Grant Extension educates about waste

BEAVERTON, Ore. – As more Oregon boaters head out on the water this time of the year, knowing where and how to dispose of human waste is not only important for the health of people and wildlife – it’s the law.  

It’s illegal to dump raw sewage within three miles of the Oregon coast and in inland rivers, lakes, reservoirs. There are approximately 80 locations in Oregon where recreational boaters can find floating restrooms, pump out their holding tanks or flush away the contents of their portable toilets.

However, some marina staff are new to maintaining these facilities or unsure how to troubleshoot problems. Also, boaters don’t always know where to find the closest facilities.

This is where Jenny East is comes in.

As the “pumpout ambassador” for Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University Extension Service, East’s job is to help highlight free boater waste disposal options.

“Through a federal grant program called the Clean Vessel Act, boaters and anglers have access to boat holding tank pumpout stations, portable-toilet dump stations, and floating restrooms to help keep sewage out of waterways,” said East, boating outreach coordinator for Oregon Sea Grant Extension.

Through a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration Fund and the Oregon State Marine Board, grant funding is available to marinas and boating facilities to help with installing and maintaining equipment, and to educate boaters about availability throughout the state.

For updates on facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, East has been referring questions to the Oregon State Marine Board website, which features an online map with details about boat ramps, safety alerts and other information.

Since 2016, East has had conversations with more than 3,900 people who boat and fish. She connects with boaters at places like the Portland Boat Show, the Saltwater Sportsman Show, outdoor recreation and fishing supply stores, and community family fishing events where she provides resources to help find and use waste disposal facilities. 

East also conducts training with marina and boating facility staff at 47 sites statewide. These staff members maintain the equipment boaters’ use for waste disposal. In addition, she works with staff that maintain floating restrooms on 16 water bodies, including Tillamook Bay, Lake Billy Chinook, and Green Peter Reservoir.

A series of instructional training videos posted on the Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State Marine Board’s YouTube channels help train new staff and serve as a reference guide. 

“These staff members play an important role in the pollution prevention process and their efforts are appreciated,” East said. “It takes a collective effort to prevent water pollution. Many of those in the recreational boating community are doing their part to help.”

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