It’s the time of year when being on the water in Washington is most attractive – those nice sunny August days.
Boat owners know that clean water is important to quality of life in Washington, and boaters themselves have an important role in keeping our waters clean -- especially when they fuel, repair and maintain their investments.
Did you know:
- As little as a quart of oil, diesel, or gasoline can contaminate acres of water and shellfish beds, and can prove deadly to all forms of aquatic life?
- Most boat hulls in marine waters are coated with soft toxic paints that poison aquatic life that would otherwise attach to the boat?
- Sewage holding tanks, when improperly emptied, threaten the health of people playing in the water or on beaches?
- Soaps and detergents that boaters might be tempted to use over water are also toxic to aquatic life, especially to our threatened and endangered salmon?
There are many steps people can take to be clean, green boaters and protect the waterways they enjoy.
Boaters also need to be aware that it is actually illegal to perform underwater cleaning of hulls that have soft, toxic coatings (ablative and sloughing). In fact, boaters can face a fine of up to $10,000 under state law (RCW 90.48.080, WAC 173-201A).
The soft toxic paints that coat many boat hulls contain toxic chemicals that are released when the paints are cleaned or otherwise disturbed. When released, these chemicals poison salmon and aquatic life. That’s why it’s important to avoid cleaning such boats in or near water, or near storm drains.
Here’s what you can do:
- Know your hull’s surface before you clean it. If it has soft toxic paint, take your boat out of water to a facility that collects all discharges and debris. To do this work yourself on land, use a tarp and vacuum sander to collect all debris, and dispose of it properly.
- Check to see whether new hard-coatings and epoxy-based hard paints could be right for your boat. These are safe for in-water cleaning, and such surfaces discourage organism growth, last longer, and minimize harm to the environment. Learn more at University of California Coastal Resources or by watching a video from San Diego.
- When washing your boat, use fresh water and spot-clean to prevent dirt build up. Avoid letting soaps or detergents enter water. Soaps may add nutrients that promote algae bloom. An increase in algae bloom can decrease oxygen available to fish and other aquatic animals and lead to suffocation.
- Do not allow excess cleaning products to enter into the water. The most damaging pollutants are those that persist and tend to increase in concentration as they are transferred through the food chain.
- Look for the words “phosphate-free and “biodegradable” on the cleaning products used onboard. Buy only what you need. The smaller the product size, the smaller the potential spill.
Fueling properly is another way that boat owners can protect our waters. Small spills from inattentive fueling can permanently harm our waters. Here are some tips for proper fueling:
- Use an absorbent “donut” pad when fueling to help keep drips out of the water.
- Shut off all engines during fueling.
- Know the capacity of your fuel tanks and avoid overflows. Fill your tank to 90-percent capacity to leave room for the fuel to expand.
- Fill your tank slowly to prevent overflows.
- Avoid letting fuel escape into the water from the tank vents.
- Fill your boat’s tank on land whenever possible.
- Use funnels to fill portable tanks and oil absorbents to catch drips.