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Clean Boating - How to do Your Part

From the Maryland Clean Marina Initiative
Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Environmental Concerns:

Petroleum in or on the water is harmful and, in some cases, fatal to aquatic life. Benzene, a carcinogen, is in gasoline. Oil contains zinc, sulfur, and phosphorous.

Once petroleum is introduced into the water, it may float at the surface, evaporate into the air, become suspended in the water column or settle to the sea floor. Floating petroleum is particularly noxious because it reduces light penetration and the exchange of oxygen at the water’s surface. Floating oil also contaminates the microlayer. The microlayer refers to the uppermost portion of the water column. It is home to thousands of species of plants, animals, and microbes. The abundance of life in the microlayer attracts predators: seabirds from above and fish from below. Pollution in the microlayer, thus, has the potential to poison much of the aquatic food web.

Also worth noting, a single pint of oil released onto the water can cover one acre of water surface area.

The Law

Because of the harm associated with petroleum, the discharge of oil is absolutely prohibited. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or the waters of the contiguous zone if such discharge causes a film or sheen upon, or discoloration of, the surface of the water, or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water. Violators are subject to a penalty of $5,000.

The United States Coast Guard must be notified anytime a spill produces a sheen on the water. Call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. Report the location, source, size, color, substance, and time of the spill. Failure to report a spill may result in fines.

The Clean Water Act (33 CFR 153.305) also prohibits the use of soaps or other dispersing agents to dissipate oil on the water or in the bilge without the permission of the Coast Guard. Soaps, emulsifiers and dispersants cause the petroleum to sink in the water column and mix with sediments where they will remain for years. Also, the soaps themselves are pollutants. You may be fined up to $25,000 per incident for the unauthorized use of soap or other dispersing agents on the water or in the bilge. 

Fueling Practices

Gas or diesel may be spilled during the act of fueling: as backsplash out the fuel intake or as overflow out the vent fitting. Spills of this sort harm aquatic life, waste money, and can result in stains on the hull and damage to the gel coat and striping. Follow these tips to avoid problems:

Bilge Maintenance and Oil Changes

Engine oil tends to accumulate in bilges. If no precautions are taken, the oil is pumped overboard along with the bilge water. Discharging oily water is illegal. To avoid fines and to protect water quality, follow these tips:

Disposal of Oil Absorbent Materials

The disposal of used oil absorbent material depends on what type of product it is and how it was used:

Emissions Control

Marine engines--especially 2-stroke outboard motors--produce the highest average level of hydrocarbon exhaust emissions after lawn and garden equipment. Hydrocarbon emissions contribute to ground level ozone, a known health risk. Follow these tips to help your engine operate as efficiently as possible:

Preventative Equipment

Products are available commercially which can help you prevent spills and reduce emissions:

In Case of a Spill

Related Articles:
Environmentally Safe Cleaning Products for your Boat
Maritime Environmental Regulations
by Chief Warrant Officer Jim Krzenski, Commanding Officer, U.S.C.G. Station Fort Pierce, FL

 

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