In response to criticism and strengthening state guidelines, Marina Max made the decision to invest in a water recycling system as a solution for the wastewater runoff created by its boat pressure-washing operations.
Marine Max has been scrutinized by local environmental watchdogs for its pressure- washing operations, which has allowed wastewater flow into Motts Channel. Runoff water from boat pressure washing can contain heavy metals toxic to marine life.
The marina invested in a wastewater recycling system from Clean Marine Solutions last week. The machine captures wastewater from boat pressure washing, removes harmful pollutants and recycles the water. The recycling system would make Marine Max compliant with state environmental regulations.
"We would like to continue the standard method [of boat washing] within the industry," said Thom Cross, Marine Max manager. "This piece of equipment allows us to do that and meet the requirements for the state."
In the past, eyewitnesses have seen the wastewater draining into Motts Channel from Marine Max’s pressure-washing operation. Some sent complaints to town of Wrightsville Beach officials and to NCDENR, which caused the state to observe the pressure-washing operation during a routine stormwater permit inspection earlier this summer.
The NCDENR sent Marine Max a notice for violating its stormwater permit along with educational materials about marine wastewater recycling.
Marine Max has been considering investing in Clean Marine Solution’s system for several weeks, but Cross was hesitant to comment about the purchase until a final decision had been reached.
"These guys have really made a concerted effort to comply with the regulations," said David Flagler, founder of Clean Marine Solutions.
NCDENR has been criticized by the local marinas for not providing strong enough direction about how to manage wastewater to comply with state regulations. Cross said he believes the issue is more clearly defined now than it has been in the past.
"As marinas, we all operate very similarly and we interpret what we should be doing maybe differently," he said. "At this point in time, it has become more clearly defined to us as a company and we are acting upon that definition."
The new system has not been permanently installed, but Marine Max is currently using it during its boat-washing operations. So far, the machine has met Cross’ expectations. The marina is currently trying to determine the best location for the machine so that plumbing for the system can be installed.
That state is scheduled to inspect the new system on Friday, Aug. 3, and will discuss what permitting requirements will be involved, said Jim Gregson, surface water protection supervisor for NCDENR.
The basic recycling system from Clean Marine Solutions starts at $13,000, Flagler said. Marinas also purchase a containment pad, which catches the wastewater, and that is an additional cost of $5,000. Marine Max will be the fourth business in North Carolina to buy into the Clean Marine Solution system.
Cross said the wastewater recycling system was the best option for Marine Max in handling the wastewater issue, but it may not be the best solution for every marina.
"The only message that I would send is that each individual marina needs to investigate what they need to do on their own," Cross said. "In our case we felt that it was the right thing to do to invest in this system."