Free Sanitary Service Aims To Prevent Raw Sewage Spills In Rivers
By Jay Cook |
RED BANK – A former New York City firefighter who captains an inconspicuous 22-foot center console boat plays a necessary role in ensuring the cleanliness of the two rivers.
Royal Flush, a free-of-charge pump-out boat operated by NY/NJ Baykeeper and maintained by Monmouth County, will open for business May 18 as a summer-long initiative to responsibly remove waste from recreational boats.
“You might mistake it for anybody’s runabout (boat), but it’s going around making a tremendous contribution to keeping the river clean,” said Greg Remaud, baykeeper and CEO of NY/NJ Baykeeper.
Mike Schumacher has been at the Royal Flush’s helm since NY/NJ Baykeeper partnered with Monmouth County to operate the vessel in 2016. Schumacher, a lifelong boating enthusiast, runs the sometimes messy, yet ever-rewarding one-man operation.
“There’s a little bit of odor to it I’ve heard, but I’m kind of immune to it now,” Schumacher said with a laugh. “If you know where to stand on this boat, where you have to be upwind, you’ll be fine.”
But the services offered by Royal Flush are no laughing matter, said Christopher P. Merkel, a health officer with the Monmouth County Health Department. Concerns in recent years about water quality degradation and issues of fertilizer and fecal contamination in the Navesink only reinforce the “vital role” the pumpout boat plays in the Bayshore area, he said.
The main priority is to properly “dispose of recreational boating waste which otherwise might have been disposed of improperly into our waterways.”
Since the program’s inception in 2001, Royal Flush has pumped out close to 600,000 gallons of raw sewage from recreational boats. The boat was also quite busy last year. It serviced 826 vessels, operated for 355 hours over 50 service days and responsibly pumped out 28,260 gallons of waste.
“Think about the impact it has,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Patrick Impreveduto. “It’s keeping our waters clean and it’s keeping our aquatic life healthy.”
Boaters who frequent the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers will regularly see Schumacher out on the water as early as this upcoming weekend. He operates between eight and 10 hours on Fridays and Saturdays. After some early morning prep work, he launches the boat from its slip at Irwin Marine’s second yard in Red Bank and begins his rounds. The Molly Pitcher Inn, The Oyster Point Hotel, Irwin Marine and Shrewsbury Yacht Club make up most of his morning stops.
The 22-foot, 1999 Mako he captains has been customized for the job. Underneath, it’s been modified to hold upward of 400 gallons of sewage at a time – enough to take him through the day before he pumps the cargo into a regulated treatment depository at a local marina where it goes to be treated. Other than some signage around the hull, Schumacher said the normal boater wouldn’t even recognize he’s operating the pumpout boat.
While the service is free to all boaters, it’s not always easy to reserve time for Royal Flush. The boat operates on a first-come, first-served basis, as mariners are responsible to call and get in line in advance of the weekend. A typical service only takes a few minutes but the calls can get backed up quickly. There have been times when Schumacher has pumped out as many as 75 boats in a day.
“Just like that you’ve been a good citizen and kept raw sewage from going into our wonderful waterway,” Remaud said.
Schumacher “isn’t getting rich doing this,” said Remaud, reinforcing the importance of having dedicated environmentalists out protecting the waters.
Schumacher, a 59-year-old Aberdeen resident, has been a boating enthusiast for more than four decades. It’s that passion for the water that drives him to play his “small part” in protecting a nearby ecosystem.
“The primary concern is the environment,” he said. “Being that I’ve had boats for so long, I’ve seen disasters and people dumping and what it can do.
“I’m just hoping to make a difference, that’s all,” he said.
To contact Schumacher and Royal Flush, call and leave a message at 732-890-6142 or reach the boat via radio at VHF Channel 9. Royal Flush’s services will be open to all boaters, not only Monmouth County residents, from May 18 through Sept. 29. For more information, visit VisitMonmouth.com or call the Monmouth County Health Department at 732-431-7456.
This article was first published in the May 17-24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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