As it does every summer, Barnegat Bay is about to become dotted with recreational boats of all sizes and dimensions. Ocean County's pumpout boat crews will ply the waters as well, their 20th year of removing waste and effluent that would otherwise end up in the Bay and hamper efforts to keep it healthy for marine life.

Ocean County Freeholder Dir. Joe Vicari (c) and Pumpout Boat Captains Val Varga, Robert Cardwell, Dick Gouldey, Steven Holiday, George Ward, Richard Christen, Harry Thorne. Not shown: Mario Riccio, John Lippincott (Ocean Co. Public Information)

"I recently met with all of our boat captains and the other partners in this program and it was unanimous - we are expecting a great summer season here in Ocean County," said Freeholder Director and tourism liaison Joe Vicari in prepared comments.

"Barnegat Bay is an environmental jewel and our pumpout boats help in our continuing effort to protect and preserve it."

Pumpout boats are specially-rigged to empty toilets and tanks of adjoining vessels. They operate from Memorial Day weekend through October, including major holidays.

The skippers can be contacted on VHF radio channel 9, as well as by cell phone. Their numbers are listed in the program description in the Ocean County Planning web page.

Starting with one boat that cruised the waters of the northern barrier island in 1997, the fleet has grown to seven that cover the entire Bay and its tributaries.

Five were County purchases through Clean Vessel Act reimbursements and the NJ Shore-To-Please license plate program. One, the Circle of Life, was bought by Seaside Park.

In addition to Seaside Park, key partners in the initiative inlcude Brick Township, Tuckerton Seaport, and the Ocean County Utilities Authority, which shares the annual $120,000 operational cost with the county administration.

The service perenially draws special attention from Vicari, who sees it as an essential component of tourism in exemplifying Ocean County's desirablity as a marine destination. He calls them the County's ambassadors on the water.

"When boaters are unable to use the many pumpouts based at the marinas throughout the County, they should be using the pumpout boats," he said.

"We now operate six pumpout boats regularly that are helping us do our part to keep Barnegat Bay and its tributaries clean. We encourage all of our boaters who are out enjoying the bay and our rivers to use this free service and prevent waste water pollutants from entering our waterways."

Students in Ocean County schools contributed the crafts' identities: Circle of Life, Pollution Solution, Water Warrior, Bay Sweeper, Waste Watcher II, Bay Defender, and Bay Saver.

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