New legislation enacted a few years ago carries a clean up penalty of up to $500,000 for a marine oil or fuel spill. And, the spill doesn't have to be the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster to cost YOU a bunch! YOU are responsible for ALL the cost of cleanup and repair of ALL damage resultant from a discharge of contaminants from your vessel, accidental or not.
This means that should your discharged fuel damage the bottom paint on 50 boats, you can be held liable for the cost of hauling, repainting and any other resultant damage. If your discharge is shown to damage a waterfowl habitat, you could be required to foot the bill for restoration. And, you don't want to even think about the cost of that. If people become ill from eating contaminated fish or shellfish, you could be held liable for that too. Now, add to that the criminal penalties, including imprisonment in a federal facility, and you can get a very rough overview of the tough new pollution laws.
Most boaters are environmental sensitive people, who want to preserve the natural beauty, and the joys of boating as long as possible. I don't think any pleasure boater intentionally wants to foul the environment, yet we are becoming targeted by certain groups as the bad guys in the environmental battle. We need to do more ourselves, and take control of overboard discharges, to reduce the potential for others to take control over our boating lifestyle. We're already seeing major thrusts in marine engine pollution reduction, in both inboard and outboard engines, brought about by government regulations. In some areas, boating has been targeted as a pollution hazard, and some have sought regulation as to the days of the week you can operate your boat in certain areas.
Some quick fix tips to reduce pollution:
- Keep a few disposable oil absorbent pillows on hand to sop up oil spillage from bilges.
- Use absorbent pads to catch spills from oil changes or minor bilge spills.
- Clean up spilled oil or diesel before you use bilge cleaner. A gallon of bilge cleaner and water mixed with a quart of oil produces 5 quarts of hazardous waste. It's better to get the spill up first, then use bilge cleaner or detergent to clean up the residue.
- If you have an oil or diesel leak, fix it. Or, if it's one you can't stop completely, use absorber pillows, tied securely so as not to foul your bilge pumps. Don't let oily waste be pumped overboard.
- Dispose of hazardous waste in approved dumps. If you don't know what to do with your oily waste, contact the marina office for help.
- Never flush toilets or waste overboard in prohibited areas. Almost all regulations now require waste be held in approved holding tanks until it can be removed at dockside sanitary pump-out facilities. Some regulations no longer allow overboard discharge even outside the three-mile coastal limit. Check before you discharge. If in doubt, use shore pump-out!
- Porta-Potties can't be dumped overboard either. They must be brought to a discharge area for release of their contents. Most public rest rooms will not allow them to be drained there, so you can use marina facilities, your toilet when you return home, or an RV facility.
Finally, remember that boating, like our environment, is something we all want to leave for our children and their children to enjoy. Let's do what we can to preserve boating as we know and enjoy it.