North lake pump out stations?

#1
So last year while trying to pump out the sewage from our house boat ( a two hour project). I had the opportunity to speak with one of the park rangers about the 5 house boat line up behind me waiting for my spot at the pump out there at halls crossing. Apparently the bullfrog pump out station was not working again. He said again for about the fifth time this summer. He took me into the pump house there and showed me the relays that keep tripping off line about every 3-5 minutes. He told me that the pump out stations were really old and delapitated. He also said that they were on the docket to get complete new pump out stations for the 2016 season but that got put on hold. I can't remember the reason, because at that point I was fuming with disgust. And let's be honest I was about to pass out because of the smell. Buy the way his suggestion was that I write my congress person. I have not been happy with the pump out stations for some time now and now they have upped the price we all pay to enjoy the lake. Both the parks service and Aramark for entrance fees and buoy and slip fees respectively.
So after all that complaining the park ranger did tell me they were getting new pump houses this off season. So my question is, have they done anything about the pump out stations at halls and bullfrog. Or are we going to have to suffer through another season of waiting two or three hours each to pump out and that's if they are working at all ??? I talked to one house boater there that the week before he left the sewage in his boat because he could not get it to work and after 3 hours gave up. He was there to dump that when I was talking to him. Has anyone been to the north end and seen any signs of hope that we will get relief from this??? What do you all know ??
 

BartsPlace

Moderator
Staff member
#2
I want to make a comment, but I don't want to cause a flare-up. I'll just say that, yes, there are equipment problems. I completely support resolution of those problems. I must add, however, that there are also many operator error problems. I try to help people out, if they're willing to accept help. But really, we need some info/training for the houseboat operators. A hose and a single button shouldn't be that complicated, I agree, but a list of 3-to-5 steps for successful pumping might go a long way towards mitigating all of the user-generated tripping. I'm not condemning all houseboat operators/owners (I am one, too). But, unfortunately, it only takes one knuckle-head at the dock (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) to shut down operation of all the pumping stations on a given pump (I/O).

I may be headed down this weekend. I'll look for any obvious changes at Bullfrog.
 

Endurance

Well-Known Member
#3
What are the knucklehead things that users do at the pump-out dock? The only stupid thing I can think of would be to leave the hose valve open so that the pump sucks air.

My interest is twofold. First, there is the entertainment value of some of the stupid things that people do. Second, I want to make sure that I'm not inadvertently doing anything that is hard on the pump system. I certainly don't want to be "that guy."
 

BartsPlace

Moderator
Staff member
#4
You're right on, Endurance! :D And I'm sure you're not "that guy." Releasing the vacuum (or tension) in the system will often reset the pumps. So, anything that leads to that is generally the problem. Opening the valve when not connected to a boat (by dropping, kicking, mishandling the hose, or just plain ignorance) will do the trick. The valve bars stick out perpendicular to the hose when closed and become easy targets. Less often, yet still witnessed, was someone disconnecting from their boat with the valve open. Poor seal or lack of seal (due perhaps to the wrong coupler) can also be an issue. And, to add to your humor list, was a guy who thought he could vacuum up a mess he had created... :(

In my (not-at-all extensive) experience, the system does pretty well (most of the time) when people are careful - though things can and do break. And these systems have been in operation for many years. I find that if I'm the only boat on the dock, I can suck air (while still connected to the houseboat) after the waste is exhausted without problems. There's still enough resistance (at least with our boat) to keep it running. And this gives me time to run some clean water through the system. However, if several houseboats all hit air at (or near) the same time, my guess is that the pump would trip.

Finally, I'm not saying "everything's fine" or "let's keep the old systems!" I very much would advocate for new equipment - and exploration of a new dock/pump system design. But like any older piece of gear, boat, or otherwise, you can learn about the quirks and usually find a way that is more successful than what you might have been doing previously. Which brings me to my last point: a fair amount of liquid in the waste tank is often a blessing. On some trips, this happens automatically. But if we've done a shorter trip, or nobody took showers, or we didn't use the dishwasher for whatever reason, I will add water to the holding tank at the pump-out dock (with the hoses provided) before pumping. I really thought everybody did this, but I was wrong. I've done it via the pump-out port (usually only if I'm trying to back-flow for a clog), but normal routine for me is via the toilet. Ours drop right into the tank. The added liquid makes everything a bit more malleable (and I apologize for the imagery this conjures). Things seem to flow much better - and it leaves the tank a bit cleaner.

Well, I really didn't intend to be so verbose. Sorry! Hope that helps!

-Bart
 

BartsPlace

Moderator
Staff member
#5
Oh! And while we're talking upgrades... The number one time consumer, for me, is the transfer function (when the pumping station has to move waste to the tank on the hill). I'd love a design that improves that part of the system. That is a true roll of the dice. You either get lucky or you don't. I've had that take upwards of 30 minutes - and nobody can pump in the meantime.

Now I'm really getting hopeful that maybe I'll see some progress if/when I'm down there this weekend!

PS. My only experience with any of this is at Bullfrog.
 

Ryan

Well-Known Member
#7
Interesting (is that the right word?) information. After many times of tying up only to find the pump inoperable, I now will usually send one of our smaller boats to find which pump is actually working.

If "user error" is that big of a problem, there should be better instructions on the dock. As well as a readily accessible reset switch if that is all it takes. Or, station someone either there, or accessible, during the busiest of times.

My solution has been that we employ "poo-topia" more often than not. If you are unaware of the service, there is a boat that will pump your tanks in the slips or on the bouy, for about $100. Although that wouldn't solve the problems of those that are on the bigger ownership groups that don't have any downtime.
 

BartsPlace

Moderator
Staff member
#8
Ryan, your experience is completely valid - and not unique to just you. It totally happens. It's aggravating.

I was afraid of sending the wrong message. I just meant to add to the message of failing equipment with situations that further compound those problems. I've been at the pump-out when things don't work and it's often impossible to figure out why. And, I've been at the pump-out, mid-pump, everything working, and someone comes along and messes it all up. I'm pretty easy going and I may even walk over and ask if they need help, but it can really become frustrating after a while (especially for those waiting in a long line to use the facilities).

We've used Poo-Topia (my family calls it Poop-Topia, I think). Sometimes excellent, sometimes just okay. The price is totally worth it if you're needing to get out of Dodge quickly and they happen to be available.

Here's hoping it all gets resolved for this summer!
 

Docker

Well-Known Member
#9
So people are aware. The Hall's Crossing Pump Out station has been updated. It now has 4 pump out locations with each location having it's own separate pump. If your neighbor is sitting there sucking nothing but air it's not going to shut your pump down. I have not used the pumps yet so don't know how well they work, but they are up and running.

Unfortunately the Bullfrog Pump Out station has been down for repairs now for a couple weeks. Not sure when it will be finished, but it is getting the same treatment as Hall's Crossing with individual pump stations. I've heard there will now only be 6 Pumps though, which is two less than we currently have at Bullfrog. I will try to update when the work has been completed. For now though the only location for Pumping out at the North end of the lake is at Hall's Crossing.

Other good news at the North end of the lake is that they will now have two Pump Out boats. The old Pootopia and a new boat which will most likely be used for Hall's Crossing and Buoy Field boats. So those that rely on Pootopia will hopefully not have as much trouble securing a time slot. It's still a good idea to reserve a Pump out at least a week in advance.
 

BartsPlace

Moderator
Staff member
#10
Yay! All good news (eventually). I'm not sure I'll miss the extra pumps at BF. It was rare (to me) that they were all in use. It takes the right combination of boat styles and sizes to occupy them all simultaneously. Anyway, I'm pleased with the prospects of a new system - especially with individual pumps! Just got to BF this afternoon and hadn't had a chance to check it out myself. Thanks for the report!
 

GregC

Well-Known Member
#11
Hey Docker!
Do you know if any work has been done on the hand pumps on the floating restrooms? I've always had problems with them. It sure makes life better for us small cruiser owners when we don't have to go all the way down to Halls or Bullfrog from Good Hope to pump out 20 gallons or so.

GregC
 

Ryan

Well-Known Member
#13
Can anyone provide any details about the pump-out boats? Are the run by Executive Services, and has anyone had any experience with - Good or Bad?
I use Pootopia several times per year. Yes, it is run by Executive Services. I have never had a bad experience with them. If I take our houseboat out of the slips, we will usually pump out ourselves.

But, many trips we just use the slip as a home base. When we do that, it doesn't seem to make sense to pump out yourself. Then, the $100 fee (plus taxes) is well worth it.

Just make sure you schedule out around a week in advance. Probably more if you HAVE to have a specific pump out time due to the turn over on your boat.
 
#14
I am so excited. Kinda stupid that I'm this excited about the pump out station. Lol
I must get there every time after all the idiots have screwed it up because more then not I have waited an hour or more to get all pumped. My last trip last year I pulled up camp early because it took forever(2 1/2 hours on the first trip) and I did not want to get caught in the line. I was there by 10:30 no one around and it still took an hour and a half. It took me about 40 minutes just to get the thing on then it would not create enough vacuum. The park ranger showed up again after I called and reset it thank heavens. I know what I'm doing and I still had to wait. I have to give it up to the park ranger for disseminating good intel. He said it would be this off season. All I'm saying is Yahoo! And finally.
Did I say I was excited.
 

PowellBride

Well-Known Member
#15
Can anyone provide any details about the pump-out boats? Are the run by Executive Services, and has anyone had any experience with - Good or Bad?
We have been using Poo-Topia the last few years and have had mostly good experiences. They are not, going to plump, then add clean water and do a final pump like you might at the pump station, so I do recommend adding a bit of extra water to your tanks before you leave so that everything is as diluted as possible
 

Docker

Well-Known Member
#17
Hey Docker!
Do you know if any work has been done on the hand pumps on the floating restrooms? I've always had problems with them. It sure makes life better for us small cruiser owners when we don't have to go all the way down to Halls or Bullfrog from Good Hope to pump out 20 gallons or so.

GregC
Sorry Greg, I have no information on the floating toilet/pump out stations located on the lake. They are pumped out and maintained by the guy driving the big pump out barge up and down the Lake.

We have been using Poo-Topia the last few years and have had mostly good experiences. They are not, going to plump, then add clean water and do a final pump like you might at the pump station, so I do recommend adding a bit of extra water to your tanks before you leave so that everything is as diluted as possible
This is always a good idea whether you are pumping out yourself at the station or using Pootopia. More water the better. On a good day if the dockhands are OK with it and you are on board with your own hose they will let you back flush a couple times. The few times Pootopia doesn't do a good job it's usually because there wasn't enough water being used and the tank has a nice Pyramid of brown stuff going on! :)

The office at Bullfrog suggests going to the pump out station at least every 10 times or so using Pootopia and giving it a good flush.
 

ScottF

Active Member
#18
The office at Bullfrog suggests going to the pump out station at least every 10 times or so using Pootopia and giving it a good flush.
I don't know about Bullfrog, but at Antelope Point the pump out station at the fuel dock has a far more powerful vacuum than the Pootopia boat. On my cruiser there is a rise of about 8' from the tanks to the outlet and the Pootopia boat is ineffective.
 
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