- Author: Leigh Taylor Johnson
Zooming across a lake on water skis, motoring to a fishing spot, cruising the islands on vacation, or navigating a sailboat through a crowded marina, boaters know that engines help make boating fun! Boat engines need fuel and lubricating oil that can harm fish, other aquatic life and even human health when they spill into our waterways.
Do an oil drip here and a fuel splash there make a difference? Consider the millions of gallons of oil and fuel that California’s nearly 1 million registered boats use every year. It’s clear that small discharges from each boat scale up to create a problem. How much is too much? An ounce of spilled oil can pollute 120,000 gallons of drinking water and a single pint can cover an entire acre of water!
Smart boaters have a convenient way to keep engine oil and fuel out of the water. Oil-absorbent sheets, pads, donuts, socks and bibs are designed for use in bilges, under engines, and when fueling. Secure them to avoid fouling or clogging bilge pumps, floats, sensors or engine parts. To help prevent drips, periodically inspect engine lines and hoses and fix small leaks. Replace oil pan gaskets and oil seals when the engine is removed for maintenance.
Be sure to check oil absorbents placed in the boat regularly and remove them when they are saturated. Place all used, oil absorbents immediately into a leak-proof bag or other container. Avoid drips while you’re removing them from the boat. Use an oil absorbent sheet to clean up drips, splashes or sheens that you notice and add it to the leak-proof container.
What to do with your used oil? When boating from a marina, ask the management if they provide oil absorbent materials and if they accept saturated ones or used oil. If not, ask them for the location of the nearest, certified, used oil recycling center or call 1-800-CLEANUP (253-2687).
RECYCLING TIPS: NEVER place an oil-saturated absorbent in the trash! Remember NOT TO MIX used oil with other wastes, because then it cannot be recycled.
Quick action is critical to contain and clean up spills, so…
IMMEDIATELY REPORT OIL AND FUEL SPILLS TO:
National Response Center 1-800-424-8802
AND California Office of Emergency Response 1-800-OILS911 (1-800-645-7911)
AND The marina office, park manager or other authority at your boating area
For much more information on preventing oil and fuel spills and on safe fueling, view these two, lively videos by the Boating Clean and Green Program of California State Parks – Division of Boating and Waterways and of California Coastal Commission. Information presented in this article is drawn from these videos.
For tips on many more clean boating topics visit Boating Clean & Green.
Do you agree that oil and fuel spills are a problem?
Do you have other tips to share?
Send us your opinions and tips in the comment box below this article. (If you don't see it, click on the article's title and the comment box should appear at the end of the article.)