The Menemsha boat pumpout facility is barely working this summer. In front of the Menemsha harbor master’s shack, right next door to Menemsha Texaco, it has for most of the summer sat idle.
Edgartown harbor and Vineyard Haven harbor master departments have pumped more than 20,000 gallons in each of their towns. The Oak Bluffs harbor master’s office pumpout boat has handled around 10,000 gallons.
But the tank that holds effluent collected from recreational boats in Menemsha is 1,500 gallons in size, and it has yet to be used enough to be emptied.
The device is old (it dates back to the 1980s) and it is often too easy to “lose the prime” as Menemsha harbor master Dennis Jason puts it. At times the pump has trouble sucking just air.
Mr. Jason said the pumpout device requires two people to operate it. There is a 40-foot-long hose that runs from the dock to the boat in need. It requires one person in the harbor master’s department to turn the device on and off; the second person is the boat owner. Mr. Jason said not all the boat owners know how to use their end of the hose.
Chilmark selectman chairman Frank Fenner said the harbor is still short on providing electrical service and amenities that were once offered to the public prior to last summer’s fire.
Mr. Jason said the town faces many priorities this summer just trying to get business back to normal, following last year’s catastrophic Coast Guard boathouse fire. “That fire has taken a lot of resources out of the town,” Mr. Jason said.
The Coast Guard boathouse fire has cost the town $1.5 million, Mr. Fenner said. “Insurance has given us little over $100,000. Our priority has been to get the permitting process and construction done.”
Mr. Fenner said that the town will look at the matter of the pumpout device in the future.
“We’ve got a lot of issues to look at,” he said. “We need dredging. We have docking problems. We have bad spiles. We need to do a lot of things to get the docks in order. This has been a full year.”
For the moment the pumpout device is working, although not so well.
And a pumpout boat is not part of the plan. While the three down-Island harbors all have pumpout boats, and one has more than one boat, Menemsha doesn’t need a pumpout boat, the harbor master noted.
“Menemsha is too small for a pumpout boat,” Mr. Jason said.