Big Northeastern chain intends to get all 21 of its yards up to speed environmentally
As boatyards and marinas nationwide adopt procedures and practices that minimize impact on the environment in the name of “good business,” Brewer Yacht Yards and Marinas are planning a chain reaction.
The first of 21 sites, Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook, Conn., — its largest yard — recently earned the official state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) title of Clean Marina.
“They’ve done a fantastic job and we’re very proud of them,” says Jack Brewer, owner of the chain. “It is our mission over the next few years to get all of our marinas designated as clean marinas.”
Brewer-owned yards span from South Freeport, Maine, to Port Washington, N.Y. The smallest is Post Road Boatyard in Mamaroneck, N.Y., with 50 slips, two acres and 17 employees.
Rives Potts, 59, general manager of Pilots Point since 1980, says they now have a Clean Marina flag they can raise proudly over the 863 slips and 70 acres the yard encompasses and a letterhead they can use for marketing. Though it was a five-year struggle to gain the title, having a “clean marina” is something Potts says he has always been passionate about, and he strives to pass that passion onto his 80 employees.
“We’ve been practicing clean-marina techniques, even before the Clean Marina regulations came out,” says Potts. “We were doing separation pots for the wash-down, recycling and brush cleaning.”
In 2007, Pilots Point spent $75,000 and 800 labor hours keeping its facilities “green” and compliant. How long it takes to obtain the Clean Marina title depends on how large the facility is and what permits and regulations it must adhere to from state to state, according to Jack Brewer.
“Maine is suggesting that runoff is not deleterious and they are allowing them to do that, whereas other states such as Rhode Island do not,” says Brewer. “It’s not easy to get this designation. It takes a lot of work to get there and maintain it.”
Potts says when the Connecticut DEP approached them in 2000 about creating a set of guidelines for local marinas to follow to ensure clean marina status, they jumped at the opportunity.
“We met with the DEP once a month for about three years,” says Potts. “It was about developing a plan that the industry could easily understand and implement.”
The result in 2002 was the Connecticut Clean Marina Guidebook, which gives guidelines on everything from painting and fiberglass repair to emergency planning. A checklist is also available to ensure all the steps have been followed to gain the Clean Marina title.
“The regulatory agencies and the government work on a different wavelength, and they are immersed in legal language all the time,” says Potts. “We needed a set of guidelines that would be easy to follow by the regular guy in the boatyard.”
Potts says much of what was required were practices Pilots Point had already implemented.
“For instance, one regulation says to separate oil and gas waste, and we’ve been doing that for 30 years,” says Potts. “It just seemed like common sense to stay environmentally right.”
Pilots Point also includes environmentally-friendly amenities for boaters, such as pumpout stations, waste and used-oil collection facilities, clean boating tips in its newsletters, and local fish stations where anglers can deposit their waste, rather than dumping it over the side.
“I think our customers have become more savvy on environmental issues because of the number of favorable comments on our efforts,” says Potts. “I think our whole industry has been behind the ball, and we’re just becoming aware of it.”
Rick Huntley, Clean Marina coordinator for the Connecticut DEP, says boaters have always been sensitive to their impact and have tried to do their part.
“I think there is even more awareness now that our whole society has embraced environmental protection,” says Huntley.
Brewer says since boaters are, for the most part, concerned about the effect on the water they cruise, having the Clean Marina title shows Pilots Point takes pride in its work and will do a good job taking care of the customer’s vessel.
“Our customers have been delighted,” says Potts. “I think most of them are environmentally conscious. I don’t know what makes certain customers go from one marina to the other, but I believe having a Clean Marina title would tilt their decision a bit.”
Brewer says the main advantage to boaters is they know their vessel is being treated in a cleaner, healthier environment.
“We can take pride in our business and know that we are doing our part,” says Brewer. “And, in turn, our customers can see that.”
Huntley says the biggest hurdle facing some marinas going through the certification process is learning the rules of compliance — particularly on the various waste streams — and then applying them to their marina operations.
“We want to have the least impact on the water that we can,” says Huntley. “There are paint spray requirements, fueling, so many areas, and a lot of different business practices that are often rolled into one small site.”
Huntley says he appreciates the efforts Potts has taken to create the guidelines and checklists for other marinas, and that other marinas are making the effort to be compliant.
Potts says one aspect of staying “clean” is ensuring that outside contractors will do their job to adhere to the regulations.
“Some of these guys hired by our customers will throw bottom paint on the ground,” says Potts. “The good guys are the responsible ones, but we have to be careful of those forces outside our control.”
Brewer says Potts has already begun working very closely with other Brewer marinas to help them become compliant as soon as possible.
“I would advise other marinas to go through the book and comply with every single item. Simple as that,” says Potts. “Make sure all of your permits are in order and if they can’t do it themselves, get someone on your staff and faculty for understanding the legal and technical documents. One must understand to comply.”
Visit Brewer Yacht Yards and Marinas online at www.byy.com.
This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue.