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The Effluent of the Affluent

THE EFFLUENT of the affluent is increasingly proving to be an unusual problem on balmy Lake Windermere.

Almost six months after a monumental flood caused havoc in the English Lake District, luxury boat owners on England’s longest lake have been left high and dry by a lack of ship-to-shore toilet pump out facilities.

Hundreds of desirable craft have - up until now - relied on just three lake-side pump out stations into which to empty gallons of on-board sewage.

But now, after two of the pumps were knocked out by the record flooding of the lake last November, boat owners along the stretch of the 11 mile lake have been patiently waiting for relief since the waters rose.

Boat owner Ken Wilson, from the Ribble Valley, who has 35ft sailboat at the luxuriant Windermere Marina, Bowness, on the side of the lake, says:

“There must be well over a thousand craft at any one time on Windermere, and we now have no free facility into which to pump out the onboard toilet waste.  In fact, only one fixed shore-side pump is working at Low Wood at the north of the lake, currently, for which there is a charge.”

“Three sites have traditionally operated on the lake – the major one being a pump out at the popular Ferry Nab site operated by the Lake District National Park beside the public slipways and close to the Windermere Ferry.

“This and another free pump at the south of the lake by Tower Wood has been knocked out by the floods leaving what must be well over a thousand  boats on the Lake with only the paid-for pump option at Low Wood, at the far north of the lake. Some marinas are operating their own mobile pumps but these are even more expensive.

“We’re critically aware of the upheaval which has occurred since the devastating floods of last year, and as boat-owners we are sure this is the last thing on people’s minds. Many boat owners won’t mind a small charge I suspect, but it’s all relative. In the meantime, shall we say the situation is becoming urgent.

“Most boat owners on the lake are highly responsible but myself and colleagues afloat worry there might be the temptation among the less scrupulous to flush their sea toilets into the lake rather than drive all the way north and use the single pump at Low Wood. And as the summer season approaches, that could have very worrying and obvious effects.

“Boats are not like human beings who can just hop ashore and use public conveniences. They are restricted as to where they can dock and empty out and the crew then have to go through all the not- overly-pleasant motions of pumping out.”


Boat users attach a long hose from pump stations to special sewage exhaust holes on the sides of craft to relieve sewage header tanks below decks. Less sophisticated craft often employ more traditional methods.

Some have been anticipating the development of a floating queue as the busy summer season approaches.

Stuart Douglas, senior Lake Warden, from South Lakeland District Council, said

The pump out facility at The Public Slipway compound at Ferry Nab, which was provided by us was so badly affected by being several feet under water that the only option was to look at replacement.

“The equipment had been in use for many years and rather than simply carry out a like for like replacement of a system which was dated and had reliability issues, we looked to update and improve the system in order to ensure a suitable and reliable service for our customers in the future.

“The new pumps have been ordered and work is underway installing the necessary electricity and water supplies with delivery of the pumps imminent.

“I expect the pump out facility to be up and running soon and certainly by the end of the month.

“Originally we provided the pump out as a service, essentially for our mooring holders, with other Lake users, who do not contribute to the SLDC operation, able to benefit from its use free of charge.

“In order to avoid our mooring holders having to bear the cost involved with providing the new system, it has been decided that a charge for using the pump out should be implemented.

“In this way people who have use of the service contribute towards it and those who do not require it do not have to pay for something they do not use.

“The system will operate on “swipe Cards” which will be for sale at the slipway office providing for multiple uses and the maximum charge per use is likely to be about £3.00. This will allow use of the pump out on a 24hr basis whereas previously it was only available during limited hours.

“The Lake District National Park Authority Byelaws include byelaws made by the National Rivers Authority (now Environment Agency), which makes it an offence to discharge polluting matter into the Lake.

“It is also an offence to have a sea toilet capable of being discharged into the Lake.  In order to address the issue of pollution, we have liaised with the Environment Agency and have worked together on a programme to facilitate the EA carrying out spot checks of sea toilets on boats.”

A spokesman for the Lake District National Park Authority said the problem of pollution was being taken seriously.

“There is a problem with effluent from boats using the lake and everyone is trying to work together to ensure the environmental quality of the lake is not harmed.

“We are working with all our agency partners to try to find an acceptable answer to the problem.”

Unlike at sea, dumping of on-board effluent into Windermere is prohibited for obvious reasons.

Some boats on Windermere are over 50ft long, and are worth in excess of £1/2m  - but must still pump out their unwanted residue.

Lake Windermere rose to a 1,000 year high by some accounts last winter, causing widespread destruction and misery after a torrential downpour.