Ever wanted to own a pumpout boat? If so, your opportunity is just a click away.
After 24 seasons, the first pumpout boat that was part of an innovative county-funded program to keep the waters of Barnegat Bay clean has emptied its last tank and is ready for retirement. One of the first programs of its kind in the nation, Ocean County’s pumpout boat program was funded through a combination of Clean Vessel Act grants as well as sales of the state’s “Shore to Please” license plates – which themselves were created through a bill sponsored by then-Assemblywoman (and now county commissioner) Virginia Haines.
Seaside Park was the first community to agree to operate one of the boats on behalf of the county, and in 1997, students at Seaside Park Elementary School chose to name the boat “Circle of Life.” The program, which is still growing to this day, sees the vessels themselves purchased by the county, then turned over to a number of municipal governments to operate in their geographic area. The county funds fuel, maintenance, the salary of a captain who works part-time each summer.
Pumpout boats patrol Barnegat Bay (and, now the Manasquan River as well) and offer free toilet tank pumpouts to boaters. In decades past, before automated systems were in place, vessels often emptied their waste tanks directly into the water. The pumpout boat program was created at a time when the Jersey Shore was emerging from years of negative publicity related to environmental conditions, and the idea of a roving fleet of vessels offering free pumpouts was revolutionary. The boats, at the end of their day, safely emptied their own tanks into the county’s sewerage system.
“We were the pioneers of the program in its early days,” said Seaside Park Mayor John Peterson.
Circle of Life is a 1997 21-foot Alcar center console, purpose-built as a pumpout boat. It was the first boat to join the program, and has some “battle scars” from its nearly quarter-century of service.
“It’s being replaced in kind,” said Peterson. “There’s an almost-identical boat to keep the program going, and there will be no loss of any service.”
Circle of Life, for the past two seasons, had been relegated to a role of a backup vessel given its growing maintenance requirements. It was also used during especially-busy periods, such as the Fourth of July, when demand for the service skyrockets. Last month, the Seaside Park borough council voted to auction off the vessel as surplus property, and over the weekend it appeared as a listing on Municibid, an eBay-like service where government agencies can sell items no longer needed by the public.
“Unfortunately, it got to the point where the maintenance was getting to be too much,” said Peterson.
Indeed, the Circle of Life’s listing on Municibid tells the story of the life cycle of a working boat on Barnegat Bay. Its Evinrude outboard has a cracked cylinder and needs a power head. The trim motor no longer runs, a few bolts are missing from the engine cowling, and there’s some evidence of water intrusion in the hull. There are also some dents and dings. Yet, the vessel has attracted 35 bids in two days, and a handy boater may be able to score a bargain.
Circle of Life’s main pumping system works, and she is equipped with a 300-gallon waste tank and twin 34-gallon fuel tanks.
A few years after the program began in Ocean County, in 2003, the federal government designated Barnegat Bay a “no discharge zone” where the dumping of waste tanks became a criminal offense. Over the life of the program, more than 2.1 million gallons of waste has been collected from more than 98,500 boats – free of charge. The program continues to grow, having grown to a fleet of six vessels based in Brick Township, Seaside Park, and the Tuckerton Seaport.
In 2020, the pumpout effort saw one of its busiest seasons ever as the popularity of boating surged while other recreational activities were curbed during the coronavirus pandemic. That year, the number of vessels utilizing the service grew by 24 percent and the gallons of treated waste grew by 13 percent. The captains maintained a minimum distance of 6 feet from other boaters, and practiced no-contact pumpouts and disinfecting of nozzles. The vessels were thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant regularly.
While Circle of Life will no longer be patrolling the central portion of Barnegat Bay, its replacement, the 2008 Water Warrior will take up the full mission full-time while a new vessel is sourced.
The pumpout boats operate every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends into October, as long as the weather remains warm.
“The program has a very positive history, and it’s a reflection of our town’s concern about Barnegat Bay and the environment in general,” Peterson said.
View the Auction:
The boat is available on the public auction website Municibid, located here.