NW Yachting April 2018

Page 88

ASK THE

EXPERTS

F E AT U R I N G

TERRY DURFEE OF TERRY AND SONS MOBILE P U M P- O U T E N V I R O N M E N TA L S E R V I C E S

“Water is life, and clean water means health.”

— Audrey Hepburn

Terry Durfee Terry Durfee grew up in central Oregon and got into boating later in life. “There isn’t even enough water to swim in, where I come from.” He was introduced to yachting when he and his wife bought a boat and moved aboard. While living aboard, he had to travel to Kirkland to get a pumpout, taking two hours and about $100 in fuel. Knowing that most boaters wouldn’t bother, Durfee purchased a mobile pumpout boat. What was originally just a way to get out on the water more and earn a little extra cash has turned into a full-time job.

88 NORTHWEST YACHTING || APRIL 2018

There was a time when boaters didn’t think twice about opening their Y-valves and releasing the contents of their holding tanks right into the water. This was also about the time that secondary treated sewage went right into Lake Washington and the waters were often murky with blue-green algae (actually a bacteria) which would wash up on the shore and give off a foul odor. Sewage is full of micronutrients, like nitrates and phosphates, which algae and bacteria need to grow. Too much of these nutrients and the algae population grows out of control. If the blue-green algae population is too large, it can kill off delicate species. and make swimmers ill. In the early 1950s, after much study by a UW zoologist named Dr. Edmondson, it was determined that preventing sewage from entering the water would solve most of Lake Washington’s problems. King County Metro was founded in 1958 to divert waste and handle sewage, and by 1976 the algae problem was largely solved. Today, we don’t have sewage pumped directly into Washington’s fresh waters or Puget Sound, but we do have boaters who will empty their holding tanks wherever they are. The law requires that boats pump out their waste, but it’s always tempting to do things the easier way. Terry Durfee, of Terry

and Sons Mobile Marine Pumpout Environmental Services, believes that if you make it easy for people to do the right thing, they will. He started a mobile pump-out business and brought the service to the boaters. Now, in partnership with the Washington Sea Grant, his company performs free pumpouts in the Seattle area. We decided to talk to Terry about his company and the details of pumpouts. Q: How did you get started doing pumpouts? Well, at the beginning it was just a hobby. I worked for the city of Seattle during the day, I was a civil engineer for the Seattle Department of Transportation. I’d go out on the water every night and weekends and hangout on the boat and I enjoyed it. It was a way to get me out on the water and something I’d never really done before. Q: Why are pumpouts now required? Why not just dump your tank like boaters used to? Well, human waste doesn’t need to be in the water. There are a lot of things that human waste carries that whale waste doesn’t carry. So number one, it’s against the law, and number two, it’s the right thing to do, to pump out, instead of dirtying our waters. Q: Does human waste have an effect on oyster farms, water quality, wild life? Absolutely, fecal coliforms get into your oyster beds, shellfish, and when sewage is dumped into the water it robs oxygen from the water as it deteriorates, it robs oxygen from other plants and animals. Q: What was your business model when you first started? I charged between $30 and $45 depending on how far I had to

travel. I had about 108 customers starting out, regular customers. We’d hang out in Andrews Bay, and we lived aboard so my wife would take the big boat right out there and drop anchor and we’d hang out out there all weekend and do pumpouts. Q: We heard that you were inspired to start a mobile pump-out business by the sheer amount of time and effort it took you to get your boat pumped out. Is that correct? It would take us a good two hours; we weren’t in a hurry with the big boat. Our boat was down at Newport Yacht Basin and we had to go all the way to Kirkland every two weeks and we figured there’s got to be a cheaper, better way to do it. Q: How did you go from being a small business to partnering with the Washington Sea Grant and Washington State Parks? My wife and I decided that we’d had enough of boat life and were going to buy a house and move off the boat, and I thought that I would find other things to do with my free time other than hanging out on the boat. But then, Arron Barnett from Washington Sea Grant got ahold of me and said: “We can’t have you shut the doors, we need somebody out here, have you thought about applying for the grant?” So I did and the state was very helpful in that aspect, and they’d been looking for someone for about ten years to do this, so it was an easy transition, and I took a year’s leave of absence from the city and did pumpouts full time, and now we’re under contract until 2029. Q: What boat were you using at the start of your business? Was it designed