Pump out: finding a fitting end
Although they might have done the conscientious thing about blackwater waste, there’s still no guarantee boaters will find an ‘adequate reception’.
Gary Sutcliffe says, ‘people take the trouble of doing the responsible thing and getting a boat with a holding tank, or even going to the trouble of getting one fitted. Then on coming especially to a marina with a pump out station they are finding the hose doesn’t go into their tank fitting.’
He puts this squarely down to boat builders who don’t know about the European regulations. Going back a bit, in the 1970’s, an International Pump-Out Deck Connection Standard was introduced, based on a screw coupling using the 1½” pipe thread. It was intended to be the ISO standard for boats worldwide – but a bit of a farce followed since the USA doesn’t use the ISO threads and a variety of fittings worked their way back across the pond.
Then recently the ISO standard was revised to make pump-out easier and more effective. The intention was to encourage use of the pump-out probe connection system, which creates a good vacuum without the need for any other loose couplings and so providing maximum efficiency with minimum effort.
All of this is now built into the current ISO standard - 8099 ‘Small Craft Toilet Waste Retention Systems’, which is supposed to ensure that any boat can be pumped out with the probe.
But it seems some boat builders, both in the UK and elsewhere, still haven’t caught on. So the brand new boats can’t pump out and the owners are faced with hunting around for an adaptor (a word to the wise, don’t try the Blue Peter version of sticky tape and funnelling, it can result in problems which are best left to the imagination).
At best, boaters are looking at a screw adaptor purchase. The bad version is a tapered rubber cone, but this results in a very messy business. ‘You should be able to discharge on a hands free basis through a sealed system, but if you have a cone adaptor that isn’t a permanent fitting, you end up with a problem needing rubber gloves and a nose peg as you have to wash the whole thing off,’ explains Mr Sutcliffe.
But, as he points out ‘Some boat builders are putting in deck fittings that have a captive cap, one where the chain is pinned into the exit hole. Which means you can’t even get a rubber cone or adaptor in.’
And if you go sailing into Spain, you might find the facilities are substantially worse than the UK, since in the UK people have been putting in efforts at making pump out systems work for some considerable time – at least on the marina side. Mr Sutcliffe visited some Spanish marinas and was concerned to find that, although the authorities have (in theory) enacted legislation to require boats of a certain size to fit holding tanks and marinas to install pump out equipment to service them, boat builders there are also are not complying with the regulations.
As well as the non-standard pump out deck fittings, many production boats coming out of Spain are have inappropriately small holding tanks, often just enough to meet the regulations which will only cope with very few toilet uses. This means that owners either empty the tanks into the marinas or are simply bypassing them and not using them at all.
Additionally the marinas are fitting poor quality and unproven pump out equipment fitted with non-standard pump out probes which, although ‘ticking the box’ to show that pump out is installed, actually doesn’t work and are unable to provide a working vacuum connection or adequate suction to empty a holding tank. In some cases these machines can’t even provide the power to pump to the main sewer.
Since many marinas do not seem to be aware of the legislation and therefore are resisting buying and installing pump out equipment so boats who DO have proper holding tanks cannot pump them out. The result is marinas with million pound plus yachts floating in their own waste.
However, onto best practice. LeeSan, recently commissioned a complete new pump out and waste disposal system at Mapledurham Lock on the River Thames. This project was part of the Environment Agency plans to greatly improve these facilities all along the river.
The work was carried out by Jackson Civil Engineers, working closely with LeeSan who designed, specified and built all of the waste disposal equipment.
The facilities include a brand new, card operated, pump out station incorporating post pump out rinsing. This is housed in a green GRP cabinet which is accessed from a new landing area. Out of hours the unit can still be used by holders of Thames River (EA) padlock keys.
The pump for the system is remotely located in its own brick building. This means that, although it is mains voltage, the on-shore facility is Safety Extra Low Voltage. The unit is fed by a fresh water ‘booster’ pump which meets the new requirements to prevent back contamination via an air gap in the line.
Adjoining the pump house is a new portable toilet and waste disposal unit. This is completely constructed in stainless steel and features its own active carbon, anti-odour ventilation system, another idea designed to make the whole experience (including maintenance) a bit more comfortable for all concerned.
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