After a long cool spring, boaters are starting to head back out on Washington’s rivers, lakes and marine waters for another season. Now is the time for boaters to consider what they can do to stay safe and protect our waters.
Ecology receives about 3,800 spill reports a year. Many oil spills occur at marinas and from recreational boats. Even small spills matter. A single quart of motor oil can potentially contaminate up to 100,000 gallons of water.
From September 2010 through April 2011, Ecology logged more than 100 small spills at ports and marinas that were too thin to clean up from the water.
If mechanical problems occur far from shore, they can put a boat in jeopardy of sinking — threatening lives and potentially contaminating our waters. We don’t want someone’s perfect day on the water turning into an environmental disaster.
Boaters can protect their watercraft and the environment by taking the following precautions:
- Tune up the boat motor, check for oil and fuel leaks, and fix them before launching the boat.
- Carefully replace the engine’s old gear oil and coolant, taking care not to spill any in the water or on the ground. Safely recycle or dispose of used oil and filters, batteries, unused paint, solvents, antifreeze and other chemicals at the county hazardous waste collection site.
- Put a clean absorbent pad in the bilge-pump area. Do not pump contaminated bilge water overboard. Use approved shore-side facilities.
- Do not discharge treated or untreated sewage in the marina basin. Use shore-side sewage dump stations or mobile pumping services if available.
- Do not overfill or top off fuel tanks. Allow for fuel expansion especially in warmer weather. Use oil absorbents or other devices to catch drips.
State and federal law requires anyone who spills oil, regardless of size, to immediately report it to Ecology at 800-OILS-911 and the U.S. Coast Guard at 800-424-8802. Acting quickly can help minimize environmental damage caused by oil and chemical products.
Anyone can report a spill or other environmental problem. See Ecology’s online resources for reporting problems that affect the environment: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/reportaproblem.html