I learned from various sources that it was illegal for pleasure craft (read non-commercial boats) to dump sewage into the ocean. My boat has a sewage holding tank, which stores the sewage until it can be “pumped out” at a facility. I thought that this was the law.

I learned on my circumnavigation of Vancouver island, that dumping sewage into the ocean isn’t illegal. I learned this in the way that is indisputable in a common-law system: it is common practise to dump sewage and there is zero enforcement.

I planned to pump out my holding tank as frequently as I could. Part of my route planning was to visit harbours that had these facilities. Pumpouts were not available in: Westview (Powell River), Alert Bay, Winter Harbour, Yuquot, Ucluelet, Bamfield, or Port Renfrew. So I knew that Nanaimo, Lund, Port Hardy, and Tofino were going to be important ports of call. Everything was going according to plan until we arrived in Port Hardy.

Port Hardy is a large town, with at least 100 boats at the docks. At first we couldn’t find the pumpout. Then we asked at the harbour authority office, where we were told where it was and that only one employee knew where the parts needed to work it were located. They weren’t at the pumpout because they were worried about theft. We went down to the pumpout, which clearly hadn’t been used in some time. And boats were rafted around that dock making access difficult, if not impossible. We stayed late the next day for the employee who knew where the parts were, but the only fitting that they had wasn’t compatible with our industry standard fitting. Let me repeat that: we have the standard pumpout fitting, the only fitting I have every seen on any boat or at any marine supply store and the only fitting they had for their pump didn’t fit the industry-standard fitting we had. Clearly no one had pumped out in Port Hardy in some time. And it was several hundred kilometers to the nearest alternate pumpout.

I’m not naive enough to believe that all laws are obeyed, or even should be obeyed. Clearly we have laws that are unreasonable or immoral, or both. But I was a little surprised by this flagrant violation of the law as I understood it. Or misunderstood it, as the case turns out.

The Pleasure Craft Sewage Pollution Prevention Regulations only prevent dumping sewage in a tiny handful of named harbours in BC.

So, don’t plan to pumpout in Port Hardy. And don’t worry too much about pumping out.

Incidentally, the wharfinger at the Tofino small craft harbour was very nice to us, helped us with our pumpout there, and refused to charge us for the service.

One Response to “Pumpouts”

  1. Travels with Wai Whare » Blog Archive » Tofino Says:

    […] Tofino has a solid kilometer of docks. We stayed at the public small craft harbour. The wharfinger there was very helpful. When we docked there was at least a knot of current pushing us off the dock, which made for several false starts. We also had some trouble with excess wake. […]

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