Clean Marina Program
for Clean Boaters
"Boating is good clean fun. Let's keep it
Take The Clean Boater Pledge
"I pledge to be a Clean Boater and follow Best Boater Practices (BBPs)
keep oil, sewage, toxic boat cleaning and maintenance products,
butts and other trash, fishing gear and invasive species out of the
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.
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.
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:
- Fill tanks to no more than 90 percent
capacity--gas that is drawn from cool storage tanks will expand as it
warms up onboard your vessel.
- To determine when the tank is 90 percent full,
listen to the filler pipe, use a sounding stick (if possible), and be
aware of your tank’s volume.
- Rather than filling your tank upon your return to
port, wait and fill it just before leaving on your next trip. This
practice will reduce spills due to thermal expansion because the fuel
will be used before it has a chance to warm up.
- Fill portable tanks ashore where spills are less
likely to occur and easier to clean up.
- Use oil absorbent pads to catch all drips.
- Slow down at the beginning and end of fueling.
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:
- Keep your engine well tuned to minimize the amount
of oil that is released. Be sure there are no leaking seals, gaskets or
- If you change your own oil, purchase a non-spill
pump to draw crankcase oils out through the dipstick tube and slip a
plastic bag over used oil filters prior to their removal to capture any
drips. Hot drain the filter by punching a hole in the dome end and
draining for 24 hours. Recycle the collected oil. Recycle the metal
canister if practical. If not, dispose in your regular trash.
- Place oil absorbent materials or a bioremediating
bilge boom in the bilge.
- Place an oil absorbent pad under the engine.
- Replace oil absorbent materials regularly.
- Look for contractors or marinas that offer a
bilge pumpout service.
- Do not treat oily water with detergents. Soaps
pollute and make clean up impossible. You may be fined up to $25,000
for using soaps to dissipate oil.
of Oil Absorbent Materials
The disposal of used oil absorbent material
depends on what type of product it is and how it was used:
- Standard absorbents that are saturated with
gasoline may be air dried and reused.
- Standard absorbents saturated with oil or diesel
may be wrung out over oil recycling bins (if they are saturated with
oil or diesel only!) and reused. Alternatively, they should be double
bagged with one plastic bag sealed inside of another and tossed in your
- Bioremediating bilge booms may be disposed in
your regular trash as long as they are not dripping any liquid. Because
the microbes need oxygen to function, do not seal them in plastic bags.
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:
- Use the gas to oil ratio recommended by the engine
manufacturer. Too much oil can foul spark plugs and too little can lead
to increased engine wear or even failure.
- Use premium two-cycle engine oil (TC-W3 or
TC-W4). Premium oils improve engine performance and reduce pollution
because they burn cleaner, contain more detergents, and prevent
formation of carbon deposits.
- Use gasoline with the octane level recommended by
the engine manufacturer.
Products are available commercially which can help
you prevent spills and reduce emissions:
- Install a fuel/air separator along your vent line.
These devices allow air, but not fuel to escape through a vent opening.
- Attach a safety nozzle to portable gas cans used
to fill outboard engines. These nozzles automatically stop the flow of
fuel when the receiving tank is full.
- To prevent oily bilge water from being
discharged, install a bilge pump switch that leaves an inch or two of
water in the bilge. Alternatively, connect a bilge water filter to your
vessel’s bilge pump. Filters will remove oil, fuel and other
petroleum hydrocarbons from the water.
- When it is time to buy a new engine, select a
fuel efficient, low emission model.
- Attach a container to the external vent fitting
to collect overflow. There are products on the market that may be
attached to the hull with suction cups. A rubber seal on the container
fits over the fuel vent allowing the overflow to enter the container.
Fuel captured in this manner can be added to the next boat to fuel.
and Dispose of Wastes
- Saw dust or concrete dust
- Sanding dust containing paint or varnish particles
- Caustic paint strippers
- Alkaline or acidic cleaners
- Engine oil, gas, and grease
- Waste waters and bilge water
- Hull paint residue containing copper (cuprous
oxide) or TBT
- Organic solvents, including paint thinner,
chemical strippers, and part cleaners
Do's and Dont's
- DO report all spills
- DO check with the
dockmaster to find out what kinds of vessel maintenance are permitted
- DO wipe away small
amounts of sanding dust with a damp cloth
- DO drape vessels with
tarps to catch wastes from small to medium-sized maintenance projects
- DO take longer
projects to a boatyard
- DO collect or vacuum
all boat and dock cleaning and sanding waste
- DO use a hard, less
toxic or non-toxic hull paint
- DO inspect your fuel
line for leaks or cracks regularly
- DO gently wipe down
your hull often with a soft cloth to remove soft growth
- DO use shore-side
- DO use designated
holding tank pumpout stations
- DO keep a container
aboard your vessel for trash and insure that everyone uses it
- DO use fish cleaning
stations where available
- DO use onshore
restrooms whenever possible, and only approved Marine Sanitation
Devices while underway
- DO proceed slowly in
shallow areas, avoiding contact with submerged aquatic vegetation when
- DO share unused
materials with other boaters
- DON'T top off fuel
- DON'T spray
paint in the marina
- DON'T clean
hulls with ablative or sloughing paint underwater
- DON'T treat oily
water with detergents
- DON'T use abrasive or
toxic chemicals for cleaning your boat
- DON'T throw anything
overboard (this includes cigarette butts)
- DON'T release unused
bait (alive or dead) into the water
- DON'T discharge raw
sewage into the water
- DON'T disturb the
Case of a Spill
- Stop the flow
- Contain the spill using absorbent pads
- Call the U.S. Coast Guard National Response
Center at (800) 424-8802 or on VHF/FM radio channel 16