PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Florida Sea Grant is asking recreational boaters in the state to complete a survey regarding their waste management habits.
The goal of the study is to gauge boater's knowledge, attitudes and behaviors about waste management. The outcome will determine where FSG will focus funding for waste management educational programs, and possibly pumpout stations.
"The program is user pay, user benefit," said Vicki Gambale, Clean Vessel Act Education Coordinator with FSG. "The funding comes from tax dollars that boaters pay and we want to make sure we use that responsible. so its important for me to hear directly from the boating community so I target the areas where the communities most need it."
Pumpout stations are crucial, as it is illegal to dump untreated boat sewage in Florida.
"They need to have a pumpout to properly dispose of their waste, and we want to help make sure that there are enough pumpouts available," said Gambale.
According to FSG, untreated boat sewage can contain up to 40 times as many nutrients in it than municipal sewage. If dumped illegally, it can harm water quality and marine life.
"Bacteria that is in our waste can make people sick if they recreate in that water," said Gambale. "Our waste has nutrients in it, and too many nutrients in our waterways can cause harmful algal blooms and fish kills, because the algae blooms and the oxygen decreases and the fish don't have enough oxygen to survive."
In Charlotte County, places like the Laishley Park Municipal Marina and Fisherman's Village not only have stationary pumpouts available, but mobile pumpout stations on boats and carts respectively.
Still, some boaters elect to illegally dump waste, something Sonny Briley, captain of the Corkscrew, wants to see more enforcement for.
"The problem is there is not any encforcement. There is a lot of boats in marinas, 90% of the time we see them sitting and we know they're not pumping out," said Briley.
If you are a recreational boater in Florida and want to participate in the survey, click here. According to FSG, the results should be published around September.