Monday, February 01, 2016

The Harbor Report: The overqualified Noel Plutchak is making our harbor cleaner

Learn just how easy it is to use our pump out stations
Len Bose

I have a story for you this week that you will not see coming and I will do my best to stray away from all the pun’s that can flow from it. Over the last year I kept hearing about the person who has been maintaining our boats' pump-out stations around the harbor and what an outstanding job this person had been doing.

He is Noel Plutchak, who moved to the Los Angles area in 1974 and began working at USC in the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences department. Later that year he moved over, as chief scientist, to Interstate Electronics, where is stayed until 1992.

He moved next to the Raytheon Co. and later ran his own consulting firm. Today he works for Blue Water design group, which provides planning for marina and waterfront resorts. As a side job, he maintains our harbor pump-out stations for the Chuck South Mooring Co.
And I thought I was overqualified to be a part-time dock master.

Every three months Plutchak makes the rounds to inspect all six pump-out stations and is on call when one breaks down. Each station takes about an hour to inspect for pressure and flow rates.

"These things are really key, if the pumps are performing or not," Plutchak said.
He also checks oil levels and grease fittings and looks for corrosion.
If you are a regular reader you already know that one of our problems at the pump-out stations is boaters placing the nozzles into their bilges and sucking out hazardous materials, such as motor oil, engine coolant and transmission fluid, not to mention fuel pads, nuts, bolts and razor blades.
Sharp items can cut the vacuum hoses inside the pumps at a replacement cost of $1,000 apiece. Over the last two months, at the 15th Street stations, two hoses have needed replacement.

We are still trying to save every dollar we can to improve our harbor. If you happen to see someone bringing a pump-out station hose from below decks, take down the type and name of the boat and send them in an email to or call the harbor department.

I asked Plutchak what not to do when pumping out waste.
"Do not open the valve until (the) nozzle tip is in place," he said. "I have watched boaters open the nozzle, then take the hose and nozzle over the deck flange without making a good connection. With the vacuum valve open, the waste will rise quickly and spray out the side of the nozzle until inserting the nozzle into the flange properly. Make sure you do not open the nozzle until the tip is inside the flange."

The same advice works when removing the nozzle from the deck flange. Turn the vacuum off first, then remove the nozzle. It is also good practice to gently lay down the nozzle on the ground because many nozzle tips are made from hard plastic, and if banged onto the ground will crack.
Next, take the water hose and place a couple of gallons of water into your holding tanks, and then pump out the fresh water. This will clean your holding tank and the pump-out equipment. Return the vacuum nozzle and hose to the stand and turn off the pump. The fewer hours on the pumps, the longer they will last.
Now, if you are like me, and you are wondering how a chief scientist can ever pick up extra work as a pump-out station repair man, then you will have to thank our harbor resources manager, Chris Miller.

While Plutchak was working for Mooring Systems Inc. in 2006 and 2007, Miller worked with Plutchak on another harbor project. And when we received our new pump-out stations a couple of years ago, Miller knew just the person to call to take care of it.

I have not met Plutchack yet but from what I have heard from around town is “he is the sh*t” and over the phone I head a person that loves our harbor and is doing his part in making it a cleaner harbor.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist for the Daily Pilot.

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