- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

NORFOLK (AP) — Virginia officials want to make it easier for water lovers to find relief away from shore.

The state Department of Health is planning a floating restroom, like bathrooms bolted onto a barge. It would be used by operators of small boats without bathrooms or by riders of personal watercraft such as Jet Skis, or in areas where people go tubing, said Anne Smith, a consultant with the department’s Marina Program.

“They could just park and get in,” she said.

Connie Barbour, a fisherman and an owner of Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle in Virginia Beach, said he doubts people would do that. He said he has seen people on small boats use buckets in an emergency.

“Unfortunately, more than likely, they dump it over,” he said.

That’s what state marine workers are trying to stop people from doing. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality recently released a report stating some state waterways are polluted with fecal bacteria, which can come from solid human or pet waste.

Virginia received a $928,125 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide boaters with more sewage pump-out facilities as part of the Clean Vessel Act. The grant was part of $12.26 million given to 32 states. In Virginia, part of that money has been earmarked to install 28 sewage pump-out stations and a pump-out boat at various locations.

Boats with bathrooms would pull up and connect a hose from the vessel to the pump-out facility to transfer waster water into a holding area, where it would be treated. There are about 300 stations statewide, Mrs. Smith said.

Marinas and municipalities interested in obtaining pump-out stations or upgrading existing ones would pay 25 percent of the cost for the new facilities. The rest would be covered by the grant.

A typical pump-out station could cost about $15,000, Mrs. Smith said. A floating restroom could cost from $40,000 to $80,000.

The state’s health department is working to find a municipality — possibly off the shores of Hampton Roads or Smith Mountain Lake in southwestern Virginia — to pay 25 percent of the bill for the floating restroom.

In a hurricane, someone would have to pull the floating facility to shore, Mr. Barbour said.

“That would be the last thing you’d want flipped over,” he said.

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