Federal grants to help Maine harbors collect boater waste

Posted May 03, 2011, at 1:56 p.m.
Last modified May 03, 2011, at 8:03 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Federal funds given to local harbors will allow boats to pump human waste into sewers in Bangor, Rockland, Bar Harbor and a handful of other ship destinations in Maine. This could help the environment by making it easier for boaters to dump into sewer lines — not the harbors.

“We have had complaints that when the cruise ships are in there aren’t enough places for smaller ships to pump out. This will alleviate that,” said Rockland harbormaster Ed Glaser. “We don’t want to be the reason why people can’t comply with the law.”

Glaser said Rockland does not charge people to use the one pump station it has except for cruise ships, which do pay a fee. It also will not charge yachts for the new station that it will install thanks to its share of $325,000 in Clean Vessel Act grants allocated to Maine. Other ports can charge a boat up to $5 for its discharge.

News of the pump-station grants was released by Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office.

“People come from all over the world to boat in Maine, and we depend upon the cleanliness of the environment and the beauty of the coast to attract people,” said Pingree’s spokesman, Willy Ritch. “This will help keep the water and environment clean and it will make it easier for visitors to come and obey the law. If the regulations are too difficult to fulfill, maybe they won’t want to come to Maine.”

The grant funds are being distributed to Bangor City Dock, Bar Harbor Town Dock, Rockland City Dock, Bath Maritime Museum, Bucksport Town Dock, Bucks Harbor Marine in Brooksville, Boothbay Marina and North Haven’s Pulpit Harbor, according to Ritch. Information about exactly how the money would be distributed was not available Tuesday.

“Every municipal government is under financial pressure right now, so any time the federal government can address an infrastructure need, it helps take the burden off local taxpayers,” he said.

The news is particularly fortuitous for Rockland and Bar Harbor, which are surrounded by “no discharge” zones. Whereas most harbors allow boaters to dump human waste after they are a few miles out from shore, West Penobscot Bay, Southern Mount Desert, Boothbay, Casco Bay and Kennebunk-Wells have tighter regulations.

State ports are expected to see 330 cruise visits this year between April 29 and Oct. 26, including homeport operations in Portland and Bangor. Those cruise ships, which include both large luxury liners as well as the smaller ships that cruise along the coast of Maine, will have a total capacity of nearly 263,000 passengers. Bar Harbor expects about 120 cruise visits this year compared with Rockland, which will see about 25 visits in 2011.

Last year Bar Harbor was the victim of a cruise ship dumping waste water. The cause of the dump has not been explained by the town or the cruise ship owner.

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