Today's pumpouts are designed to be efficient and trouble free. While there are sometimes mechanical problems with a pumpout system, often the troubles can be traced to boaters who are trying to do the right thing, but who are not aware of proper operating procedures.
There are three areas in which boaters can help keep pumpout systems in good working order:
This is the most common problem found in pump-outs. Remember, never flush anything that has not been eaten first. Surprisingly even very small items like toothpicks, which can pass through a marine sanitation device, are likely to get stuck and cause a pump-out to clog. Larger items like nuts, bolts, hairpins, rocks, toys, tools, oil absorbents, engine parts and even disposable diapers have been taken from clogged pump-outs. In addition, failure to adequately rinse the pump-out lines after use allows solid materials to build up and dry out. These cause blockages in the system and pump-outs that won't be available when you need them.
Damaged or Lost Accessories
Some damage to hoses, nozzles and adapters comes from environmental influences and normal usage. However, careful use can help slow damage (caused by dragging hoses across rough surfaces, crushing hoses between vessels and piers, and dropping nozzles on hard surfaces) and increase the life of equipment. Extra attention when handling nozzles and adaptors will help prevent losses due to accidental drops overboard.
Damage to Internal Valves
Diaphragm-type pumps are sometimes used in pumpouts because they can pump corrosive substances, are self-priming and develop sufficient vacuum to transfer waste over distances. These pumps are particularly subject to damage from punctures or blockage when sharp objects, like toothpicks or hard objects, like nuts and bolts are pumped through the system. They are also subject to accelerated deterioration from fossil fuel.
Bilge water should never be pumped through a sewage disposal pump-out.