The Town of Islip plans to make boaters pay to use its pump-out boat -- the first municipality on Long Island to charge for the service -- to help save the boat from the budget chopping block, town officials said Tuesday.
The decision to institute a $5 fee per pump-out -- which some boaters worry could trigger illegal dumping -- came after the town cut funding for the service because of budget woes.
But an $18,831 federal grant that town officials announced Tuesday, coupled with the new charge, will fund the boat this summer, town officials said.
Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, who serves as liaison to the town's Department of Environmental Conservation, said she doubted the fee would spark illegal dumping of sewage in the Great South Bay.
"Five dollars is a nominal fee," said Bergin Weichbrodt, who said boaters suggested the fee when lobbying the town to keep the pump-out boat.
While some boaters fear that a charge will dissuade people from using the service and instead dump their waste overboard, Bob Van Tassel, former commodore of the South Bay Cruising Club, said charging a fee was reasonable to support the service and preferable to having the boat out of service.
"I would hope it wouldn't be an issue," said Van Tassel, a Babylon resident, who described the pump-out boat as a "valuable resource that is heavily used . . . I think it's well worth it," he said of the fee.
Federal and local laws prohibit dumping marine sewage overboard. Boating groups argue that mariners are more likely to obey the law when a pump-out boat is available, rather than forcing the boater to look for a fixed dockside pump-out station at a marina that could be far away.
Most coastal Long Island towns operate pump-out vessels through federal funding.
The Town of Oyster Bay has two pump-out boats -- one in Oyster Bay and at Tobay Beach. It also has two floating barge pump-out stations and three dockside pump-out stations at Theodore Roosevelt Marina in Oyster Bay, Tappan Beach in Glen Head and Tobay Beach on the South Shore. Town officials said they spend $16,000 annually to man the boats.
North Hempstead purchased a pump-out boat with federal grant funds five years ago and plans to have a second boat on its waters this summer. The town receives $9,000 annually in federal funds to operate both the boat and its shoreside pump-out station in Manhasset Bay, which has been in use for a decade.
Smithtown and Babylon have no pump-out boats, though they have stationary pumps.
During the 2011 season -- from Memorial Day to Columbus Day weekend -- Islip's pump-out boat pumped 19,786 gallons of sewage from 149 boats, town officials said.
Revenue from the new fee in Islip is expected to cover a fraction of the cost of operating the boat, which town officials say is about $20,000 per season. Islip also has four pump-out stations.
George Fontaine, a West Islip boater, said he was fine with the fee. "We need the boat back, if you want to charge us, charge us," Fontaine said.
With Jennifer Barrios,
Carl MacGowan and
Denise M. Bonilla