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ABA Clean Boating Program


Clean Boating and Environmental Stewardship

Click on any of the following areas or read on for an array of information about clean boating:

Additional Articles

  •   Keep It Clean: A Citizen's Guide to Protecting the Coast This 53-page booklet explains the simple things people can do in their own homes, backyards, gardens, and driveways to help the coast no matter where they live. The guide includes alternatives for household hazardous products and the best disposal of these products, as well as ideas for waterfront property owners to prevent erosion and runoff pollution.
  • Dive Smart: This fact sheet explains how to be an environmentally-responsible diver.
  • Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 151.57 requires all oceangoing vessels 40 feet or more in length used in commerce or equipped with a galley and berthing to have a written waste management plan. This includes numbered and documented recreational vessels operating seaward of the inland/international demarcation line. All boaters may want to look at this to evaluate things that they can do to improve clean boating!  The Master or Person in Charge of the vessel is responsible for ensuring that a written waste management plan is on board, and that each person handling garbage follows that plan. The plan must describe the vessel's procedures for collecting, processing, storing and discharging garbage, and designate the person who is in charge of carrying out the plan. Remember, garbage (including food wastes) may not be thrown overboard on inland waters or in the ocean within three miles of land. Plastics may not be thrown overboard anywhere. In addition, 33 CFR 151.59 requires that all vessels 26 feet or greater in length have a MARPOL Annex V placard prominently displayed for the crew and passengers regardless of whether your boat operates on inland waters or the ocean.

Nationally, the water-quality of the lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries, coastal waters and other waterways that we use for boating, fishing, and swimming are important to our:

We should all be concerned about potential water-quality impacts of our own actions and the actions of others, on the water, at the dock, and even at home, work, or school because we all live, work, and play downstream of potential sources of waterborne pollutants. As boaters, we should be especially concerned with the potential impacts of:

Polluted runoff is a major source of water pollution causing beach closings and advisories. More than half the nation's coastal water pollution comes from runoff. Therefore, clean boating and environmental stewardship begins at home, even if we live far from the nearest river. It is storm water from urban, suburban, and agricultural land that eventually supplies the pollutants that may affect our enjoyment of the water. For more information click here.

The information provided here will help you to enjoy clean boating, improve your health and safety on the water and at home, and encourage you to take up the banner of environmental stewardship in your daily life so that we may all enjoy the benefits of swimming, fishing and boating on the Nation's waters.

There are many sources of good information and many ways you can get involved to help encourage clean boating and good environmental stewardship.

Boating and Our Economy

Clean boating and other forms of environmental stewardship (or the lack thereof) has the potential to affect a significant portion of the Nation's economy. Each year billions of dollars are spent as millions of Americans head to the water--a lake, an oceanfront, or their favorite river--for a few days of relaxation and recreation (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2000). This money is spent on food, lodging, and fuel, as well as special equipment, licenses, and services, so people can enjoy themselves on and around the water. Each year, however, closed beaches, fewer fish to catch, and other casualties of dirty water can affect this dynamic sector of our economy. Economic factors affected by the quality of our nations waters include:

  • The population density in coastal counties is 341 people per square mile - 4 times the national average. 50% of the U.S. lives on the coast, which is only 11% of the country's land. These 413 coastal counties generate $1.3 trillion (32%) of the Gross National Product. The U.S. coast supports 34% of national employment (over 28 million jobs). The coast supports 40% of new commercial development and 46% of new residential development.
  • A third of all Americans visit coastal areas each year, making a total of 910 million trips while spending about $44 billion. The average American spends 10 recreational days on the coast each year. 94 million people boat and fish annually.
  • The travel, tourism, and recreation industries supported jobs for more than 6.8 million people and generated annual sales in 1996 of more than $450 billion. Water-related recreation and tourism make for a large part of those jobs and revenue. Almost all Americans participate in water-based recreation and tourism and spend about 10 percent of their income on recreational activities.
  • Thirty-five million American anglers, aged 16 or older, spent $38 billion in pursuit of their sport in 1996. Fishing expenditures increased by 37 percent between 1991 and 1996. Over the period from 1955 to 1996, angler participation rates increased by more than twice the rate of population growth. If sport fishing were incorporated as a single business, it would rank 24th on the Fortune 500 list of top sales producers, surpassing such giants as General Motors, Exxon, Mobil, and AT&T.
  • The commercial fishing and shell-fishing industries need clean wetlands and coastal waters to stay in business. Every year, the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and coastal areas produce more than 10 billion pounds of fish and shellfish. The commercial fishing industry contributes $17 billion to U.S. economy. The seafood industry in California alone generates sales exceeding $800 million annually, according to the California Seafood Council.
  • Community and business leaders also understand the potential value of waterfront locations. Before passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act, many of our rivers and waterfronts were so polluted that no one wanted to go near them, much less invest in new development. Today waterfronts are often a focal point for urban renewal in many cities. A waterfront view is a prime selling feature--as long as the water is clean. Ocean, lake, and riverfront properties often sell or rent for several times the value of similar properties located inland.
  • A Money magazine survey found that clean water and clean air are two of the most important factors Americans consider in choosing a place to live.

The cost of polluted water is significant. Americans pay for dirty water every year. For example:

  • Total economic loss to New Jersey and New York from marine pollution in 1988 was estimated to be from $3 billion to $7.3 billion, costing 46,000 to 100,000 jobs;
  • A 1993 outbreak of Cryptosporidium, a disease-causing microbe, in Milwaukee's drinking water sickened more than 400,000 people and killed more than 50;
  • The toxic microbe Pfiesteria piscicida has killed millions of fish in North Carolina since 1995 and tens of thousands of fish in Maryland in 1997;
  • Losses to the U.S. seafood and tourism industries from Pfiesteria are estimated at $1 billion. Maryland alone suffered $43 million in canning and fishing losses in a single year. North Carolina is now spending millions of dollars for watershed restoration in an effort to control potential outbreaks in the future; and
  • Harmful algae blooms, which flourish in nutrient-rich waters, have devastated the scallop industry on Long Island, killed millions of fish in Texas coastal bays, and sickened many who have eaten contaminated shellfish or visited stricken seashores.

As evidenced here, clean boating and other forms of environmental stewardship have the potential to affect a significant portion of our economy.

Boating and Family Health and Safety

There are a number of environmental concerns that can affect your family's health and safety on the water. Once the basic issues of safe boating have been addressed, the issue of clean boating should be considered in terms of your family's health and safety. An overwhelming majority of Americans--218 million--live within 10 miles of a polluted lake, river, stream, or coastal area. States have identified almost 300,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 5 million acres of lakes that do not meet state water quality goals. Many of these waters are not considered safe for swimming and are unable to support healthy fish or other aquatic life.


This information was compiled for the Nation's lakes, rivers, and ponds for the USEPA's 305(b) Report to Congress. Each water body was only rated in terms of the intended uses, so for example, a dirty urban stream would not be considered as a potential drinking water or agricultural supply. Forty-two states, one tribe, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia reported individual use support status of their lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. The reporting states and tribes rated aquatic life use and swimming use in more lakes and identified more impacts on aquatic life use and swimming use than the other individual uses. These states and governments reported that fair or poor water quality impacts aquatic life in over 4.4 million lake acres (31% of the 14.2 million acres surveyed for aquatic life support), and swimming criteria violations impact 3.8 million lake acres (24% of the 15.4 million acres surveyed for swimming use support). Many states and tribes did not rate fish consumption use support because they have not codified fish consumption as a use in their standards.

There are many pollutants that are considered to be water quality problems. Most recreational boaters do not spend enough time in contact with the water to be concerned about many of these pollutants. There are, however, three problems which are of particular concern for all boaters. They are:

  • disease-causing microorganisms;
  • food poisoning from fish and shellfish by chemicals and microorganisms; and
  • injury from waterborne trash.

These problems are caused by poor environmental stewardship on land and on the water. These hazards and related problems can be reduced and (or) avoided with proper awareness of these problems, a little thought, clean boating/good environmental stewardship, and some advocacy on your part.

Disease-Causing Microorganisms

Many people do not make the connection between water-contact and illness, so this problem goes largely unreported and unnoticed. But, who wants to spend a day dealing with an unwanted microbiological visitor when they could be out enjoying the water? Disease-causing microorganisms are a real problem especially for the elderly, the young, and those experiencing other health problems. For example:

  • In 1998 about one-third of the 1,062 beaches reporting to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) had at least one health advisory or closing;
  • A 1995 study by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project of 15,000 bathers at three Santa Monica Bay beaches found that approximately 1 in every 25 beachgoers who swam near a flowing storm drain contracted gastrointestinal illness or cold- and flu-like symptoms;
  • Seventeen states reported 37 recreational water outbreaks caused by microorganisms in the latest (1995-1996) available data from the Centers for Disease Control; and
  • Currently EPA estimates that at least a half-million cases of illness annually can be attributed to microbial contamination in drinking water.

To protect your loved ones, you need to be aware of this problem, avoid known problem areas, minimize contact with the water for 24-48 hours after each storm, and encourage clean boating techniques that minimize discharge of sanitary waste into the Nation's waters.

Boaters can be a part of the problem by releasing disease-causing microbes when sanitary waste is discharged improperly. Commercial and recreational boating play an important role in American society. Unfortunately, without proper management, these activities can contribute to water quality degradation. One type of degradation is the increased concentration of fecal coliform bacteria (found in the intestinal tracts of all warm-blooded animals). The discharge of untreated or partially treated human wastes from vessels can contribute to high bacteria counts and subsequent increased human health risks, and these problems can be particularly bad in lakes, slow moving rivers, marinas and other bodies of water with low flushing rates. Section 312 of the Clean Water Act helps protect human health and the aquatic environment from disease-causing microorganisms and hazardous compounds which may be present in discharges from vessels by regulating appropriate treatment levels for different water craft.

How do you find out where it is safe to get out of your boat and swim? Look at the following information:

  • The EPA has established a webpage to disseminate information about beach water quality, click here.
  • To get contact information for regional EPA offices, click here.

For more information about disease-causing microorganisms click here.

Food Poisoning From Fish and Shellfish

Boating and fishing are intertwined. Whether we are cooking up our own catch, or enjoying a meal at the marina or a shore-side restaurant, the long-term effects of water pollution are increasingly being noticed by scientists, health-care professionals, and the general public. It's not that things are getting worse in terms of water quality; in many ways the Nation's water quality is improving. It is just that the effects of bioaccumulation and increasing awareness of the potential dangers have revealed food poisoning from fish and shellfish. In 1998, 2,506 fish consumption advisories or bans were issued in areas where fish were too contaminated to eat.


To protect your loved ones you need to be aware of this problem and encourage clean boating techniques that minimize discharge of pollutants into the Nation's waters. For more information about food poisoning from fish and shellfish click here.

Aquatic Debris Hazards

Aquatic debris is one of the more widespread pollution problems threatening our coastal waters and other aquatic habitats. Marine debris is trash floating on the ocean or washed up on beaches. Debris comes from many sources including beachgoers, improper disposal of trash on land, stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows to rivers and streams, ships and other vessels, and offshore oil and gas platforms. Aquatic debris can foul or damage our propellers, rudders, and hulls causing an unanticipated emergency. During the late 1990s, collisions with floating debris (not including other vessels) caused about 15 deaths, 80 injuries, and $600,000 in property damage per year as indicated by US Coast Guard Accident Statistics. Boaters can also be injured by stepping on trash and other debris, which can cause injury, infection and even Tetanus. Therefore, as a safe boater it is wise to ensure that your crew is up to date on all immunizations and is wearing water-shoes or other appropriate footwear when launching you boat and when swimming or wading. For more information about aquatic debris click here.

Boating and Our Environment

Recreational boating has increased dramatically over the past few decades, particularly in the 1960s. The inventory of recreational boats in the U.S. is estimated to have increased from 2.5 million in 1960, to 7.4 million in 1970, to 8.6 million in 1980, to 11.0 million in 1990, and 11.9 million in 1996. This is a nearly fourfold increase over the 1960 to 1996 period. All forms of water-borne travel are responsible for a number of environmental impacts, including air pollution, habitat disruption caused by wakes and anchors, wildlife collisions, and releases of solid waste and sewage. The recent USEPA (2000) Report Indicators of the Environmental Impacts of Transportation provides a great deal of information about marine pollution as well as pollution from other forms of transportation.

Air Pollution

Although air pollutant emissions from maritime vessels are similar to those from other forms of transportation, there are key differences. In particular, emissions from maritime vessels tend to occur over different ecosystems than those from surface transportation. Lower quantities of total emissions make the effects of vessel emissions less pronounced than those of motor vehicles. However, emissions have been increasing rapidly by recreational boats, which has implications for urban air quality. Marine engines are major contributors of hydrocarbons (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions in many areas of the country. In order to reduce air pollution from recreational boats, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing regulations that will bring forth a new generation of marine engines featuring cleaner technology and providing better engine performance. The Gasoline Marine Final Rule, published in August 1996, establishes emission standards for new spark-ignition gasoline marine engines used in personal watercraft and jet boat applications. Controlling exhaust emissions from new gasoline spark-ignition (SI ) marine engines is expected to result in a dramatic 75 percent reduction in hydrocarbon (HC) emissions from these engines by the year 2025. Historical estimates of air pollutants --including Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), and Particulate Matter (PM10 & PM2.5) from water craft are available from the USEPA.

Habitat Disturbance

Several environmental impacts result from the wakes of large or high-speed maritime vessels and anchoring. Wakes from large (e.g., cruise ships) or fast-moving vessels can cause erosion and vegetative and coral damage in confined or shallow waters. Wakes can cause strong wave propagation that is capable of eroding shorelines or stirring up bottom sediments in shallow areas. Vegetation can be disturbed both by erosion processes and sedimentation resulting from wakes. Sedimentation reduces the amount of sunlight available for photosynthetic processes. Corals also are particularly susceptible to damage from sediments that have been suspended by the action of wakes. The impacts of wakes are local in nature and likely to be more pronounced in confined, high traffic areas.

Fuel and Oil Spills

Releases of hazardous materials, especially petroleum products, from vessels are one of the most publicized impacts of maritime transportation. Many factors determine the extent of damages caused by petroleum spills, including type of oil spilled (crude or refined), quantity spilled, distance of release from shore, time of year, weather conditions, water temperatures, and currents. When an oil spill occurs, toxic hydrocarbons, such as benzene and toluene, cause immediate wildlife deaths. Shellfish and non-migratory fish, especially those in the larval stage, are the most susceptible to these chemicals. Other chemicals form sticky, tar-like globs on the surface that adhere to marine wildlife such as birds, otters, and seals, as well as to sand, rocks, and almost all other substances. Many animals that come into contact with such chemicals die from drowning or loss of body heat. Heavy components of oil that sink to the bottom of bodies of water may have the most profound impacts on ecosystems. Such pollution can kill or damage benthic organisms and adversely affect food webs. Oil pollution in the vicinity of shorelines can cause ecological harm in coastal ecosystems. Humans also experience health effects from oil spills. Exposure is dependent on how much oil washes ashore and how much seafood is contaminated and eaten. Some of the chemicals resulting from spills, such as benzene, are highly toxic to humans.

Another common waste is bilge waste, which contains wastewater mixed with oil and fuel, and is actually generated by the vessels themselves. Refueling causes problems similar to those of auto refueling stations. One major difference, however, is that spills can enter waterways directly during marine refueling. Like auto refueling, volatile organic compounds VOC can be emitted in vapors. Underground storage tanks used to hold vessel fuels can also leak their contents into waterways.


The three major types of shipboard solid waste are domestic garbage (e.g., galley waste and food packaging), operational garbage (e.g., used fishing gear, fish processing materials, and items used for onboard maintenance), and cargo-related garbage (e.g., packaging materials and dunnage). While garbage generation is substantial for U.S. maritime sectors, quantifying the amount of garbage dumped overboard is difficult. Maritime travel is not the source of all marine debris. Land-based sources and stationary maritime sources, such as oil platforms, account for some portion of marine debris. Even data on garbage generation are highly uncertain. Other factors, such as the extremely large distances (often across international borders) that floatable debris can travel, complicate statistics about vessel garbage. While these uncertainties affect the accuracy of indicators, the impacts of debris from vessels are genuine and can be described to some extent.

The most readily observable ecological effects of solid waste dumping from marine vessels are entanglement, ingestion, and ghost fishing. Entanglement occurs when wildlife come into contact with marine debris and become trapped. Affected wildlife includes mammals, turtles, birds, fish, and land animals that inhabit coastlines. Researchers believe that substantial numbers of animals die or are injured because of entanglement. In fact, entanglement is thought to be the cause of serious population declines among some species. Non-deadly injuries can be serious, causing inability to breathe, swim, feed, or raise young properly. To see details about estimated trash loadings, entanglement, ingestion, and ghost fishing click here.

In addition to ecological problems, shipboard solid wastes that are dumped overboard can cause human health problems. These problems are most notably associated with direct human contact with debris. Examples of this type of problem include wounds on beaches from sharp debris that washes up on or near shore and injuries caused by contact with hazardous chemicals. Other human health hazards associated with debris include diver entanglement and boat collisions and malfunctions.


Sewage dumping is also a problem for the marine environment. The popularity of recreational boating in coastal areas has spurred rapid development of marinas, many of which are not equipped to collect and process sewage. Boaters who use these marinas often dump sewage in the water, rather than transporting it to proper pump-out facilities. Even in cases where marinas or ports are equipped with sewage collection facilities, many vessels are still responsible for sewage pollution. Some vessels do not contain a marine sanitation device (boat toilet), and, as a result, boaters sometimes dump sewage overboard. Some vessels are equipped with marine sanitation devices that are meant to treat sewage and dump it in the water. If these devices are functioning improperly, untreated sewage can be dumped. Fees for pump-out of sewage holds on vessels also give boaters the incentive to dump sewage illegally.

Sewage from vessels can cause serious local impacts on water quality and human health, especially in areas of high recreational boat use. Studies in Puget Sound, Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, and Chesapeake Bay have shown that boats can be a significant source of human wastes in coastal waters, especially where the volume of boat traffic is high and hydrologic flushing is low. The two major impacts of sewage discharges are introduction of microbial pathogens into the environment and reduction in dissolved oxygen levels. Waterborne bacteria and/or viruses that enter waterways from vessel sewage discharges can cause serious ailments and diseases, such as acute gastroenteritis, hepatitis, typhoid, and cholera. Many marinas are located in or near shellfish growing areas, and sewage dumped from the boats or at marinas has the potential to contaminate. Pathways of exposure for humans include both direct water contact and ingestion of contaminated seafood. Vessel sewage has a high capacity for reducing dissolved oxygen in bodies of water. Although the volume of wastewater discharged from vessels is typically small, the organic substances in the wastewater are highly concentrated. These organics can lead to low levels of dissolved oxygen where vessel traffic is high. Even treated wastewater can have adverse effects on the environment. Another effect of vessel sewage occurs when treated wastewaters are discharged from vessels. These wastewaters are treated with chemical additives, such as chlorine and formaldehyde, which are generally toxic to marine life. For more information about the impact of sewage click here.

Boating and Our Future

Sustainable Development: For Today and Tomorrow

Activities that are "sustainable" can be maintained. "Development" is business expansion or growth. Put the two together for sustainable development and it's defined as growth or expansion that can be maintained over decades. For coastal communities, it means using natural resources for growth and development in a way that keeps these resources for generations to use. In 1972, Congress created a federal law, the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), announcing a national need to balance economic development with environmental protection of the coast. In this way, coastal management became an ideal vehicle for state and federal governments to practice sustainable development. The CZMA calls citizens, industries and state governments alike to encourage sustainable development by:

  • Balancing ecological, cultural, historic, and aesthetic values with economic development;
  • Restoring deteriorating waterfronts and ports;
  • Providing greater public access to the coast;
  • Giving priority along the coast to industries that cannot exist elsewhere, such as fisheries, recreation, ports and shipping; and
  • Funding "special area management plans" that increase protection of significant natural resources and allow reasonable economic growth.

Governments are applying this concept to waterfront revitalization. In rekindling the business aura on a waterfront, local and state governments invite businesses into the area that take care of the water resources. Planning committees give preference to businesses that depend on the water for survival because these businesses aren't likely to move elsewhere and abandon the waterfront.

The Human Factor

Without a long-term plan, growth and development can harm the resources we need to continue growing. For example, sewage discharge from poorly located shorefront development will contaminate bays and cause fisheries and beaches to close; intensive private development will eventually strain fresh drinking water sources; and coastal storms and mudslides will destroy homes and hotels that are located too close to the shoreline. In the end, the entire nation pays the price of unsustainable development.

The Boater's Role

Unless boating organizations, individual boaters, marinas, and the recreational boating industry are part of the solution they are liable to be seen as part of the problem. While increasing laws, regulations, management measures and other efforts have largely benefited recreational boaters and the aquatic environment, increasing control on boating activities may eventually limit access and drive up costs to an unacceptable level. Therefore, the recreational boating community should be active; not to fight the rising tide, but to encourage clean boating and environmental stewardship at all levels.

Clean Marinas

Marinas and recreational boating are very popular uses of coastal waters. The growth of recreational boating, along with the growth of coastal development in general, has led to a growing awareness of the need to protect the environmental quality of our waterways. Because marinas are located right at the water's edge, there is a strong potential for marina waters to become contaminated with pollutants generated from the various activities that occur at marinas, such as boat cleaning, fueling operations, and marine head discharge, or from the entry of storm water runoff from parking lots and hull maintenance and repair areas into marina basins. It seems that once facility owners and managers take the first few steps to protect the environment, they quickly take many other steps toward facility improvement. And the process continues as they strive to become even better after seeing the positive reaction of their customers following environmental progress. All felt good that their business activities were also better, and they have plans to continue making headway toward cleaner marinas and clean boating.

Pollution prevention uses source reduction and environmentally sound recycling to reduce or eliminate these impacts. Marinas can achieve a variety of benefits including lower operating costs, improved worker safety, and increased customer satisfaction from using pollution prevention. In addition, the use of pollution prevention is essential for marinas to meet the requirements of federal and state nonpoint source pollution and storm water programs. Common marina services can range from hull maintenance activities (including cleaning and painting), engine maintenance and repair, fueling operations and boater education.

Marinas Hull Maintenance Activities

For hull maintenance activities involving paint removal, there are a number of alternatives to the commonly used chemical strippers. In many marina situations, these alternatives may be less toxic and less expensive. Mechanical sanders and scrapers equipped with vacuums are effective at removing paint in a way that prevents migration of debris and residue. Abrasive blasting technologies utilizing sand, plastic media, metal shot, and cryogenics are currently being used in many industries to remove paint. In addition, high pressure water jet stripping can be used and incorporated with technologies to recycle the used water.

If chemical stripping agents are used, it may be possible to substitute less toxic agents or to use a smaller volume of the present agent. In addition, solvent strippers can be recycled using an onsite still. There are also offsite solvent recovery services available. Operating procedures and employee training can help ensure that only the minimum amount of agent is used, further minimizing waste generation.

Factors that need to be evaluated when selecting a paint-stripping technology include hull construction, type of paint to be removed, volume and characteristic of waste generated, and the cost of waste disposal. Sources of additional information on these technologies are provided at the end of this fact sheet.

Pollution prevention measures for boat painting operations include technology changes, material substitution and good operating practices. High volume, low pressure (HVLP) painting equipment can reduce paint emissions as well as improve paint application and minimize cost. Other painting technologies, such as air-assisted airless and electrostatic application equipment, are other environmentally sound alternatives to the conventional high pressure spray application. The proper training and instruction of spray paint operators will further reduce paint emissions.

Painting operations at marinas should also include the evaluation of less toxic substitutes for antifouling paints. The purpose of these paints is to prevent or minimize marine growth on hulls. Less toxic alternatives are becoming more available for use on boat bottoms. For some surfaces not immersed in water, such as boat interiors, waste reduction can be achieved by using water-based paints in place of solvent- based paints.

When performing hull maintenance activities, it is essential that work areas are organized and best management practices are set up to further eliminate or reduce the creation of pollution at the source. This will minimize the environmental impact from cleaning and painting activities. Painting operations, like other hull maintenance activities, should occur in an enclosed work area. Where practical, these activities should take place inside a building or under a roof to minimize contaminated runoff. Containment pads with dikes of impervious surfaces (concrete) should be installed. These measures will reduce overspray and prevent contamination of work area surfaces and runoff into adjacent waters.

If these areas are not available, plastic sheeting can be used to create a temporary containment pad. A PVC hose or pipe can be rolled up in the edges of the plastic sheeting to create a dike. Plastic sheeting or other screening material can be used to create an enclosed work area. These measures will prevent runoff of debris, residuals, and other pollutants and allow for the proper segregation and collection of waste streams.

Boat cleaning activities in the slip or dockside can also present water quality problems. Many products used for cleaning may be harmful to the marine environment. Less toxic substitutes such as phosphate-free and biodegradable soaps are now readily available. In addition, more frequent cleaning with fresh water using a soft, non-abrasive sponge can minimize marine growth and prolong the life of hull coatings.

Aside from routine boat maintenance, it is recommended that these activities be scheduled during the boating off-season. This allows the boat to be removed from the water and activities to occur in a more suitable work area location. Under no circumstances should in-the-water hull scraping and paint removal activities be allowed.

Good housekeeping measures, such as regularly scheduled work area inspections and yard cleanups, will also prevent the migration of pollutants to adjacent waters. Properly designed work areas for chemical storage will minimize the potential for spills. Storage areas should have restricted access and provide for the containment of spills and leaks. Drums and other containers should be in good condition and kept securely closed when not in use.

Marinas Engine Repair and Maintenance

Many significant problems associated with boat engine repair and maintenance can be eliminated through pollution prevention. Common waste streams generated from these activities include spent engine fluids, batteries, worn metal parts, and waste solvents. Marina operators have a number of options available to reduce or recycle these waste streams.

Proper management of spent engine fluids, such as waste oil and used anti-freeze, will prevent these materials from contaminating nearby surface waters. Individual waste streams should be collected in separate containers and segregated from other waste streams including trash and debris. These measures will reduce the volume of waste to be managed and improve the recycling capability of the waste streams. Marinas working together can implement a recycling program for their area using an outside service.

Waste solvents from parts-cleaning operations can be recovered by using an onsite distillation unit. In addition, there are offsite solvent recovery services available to the marina operator. Hazardous wastes from solvent cleaning operations can be completely eliminated by switching to an alternative cleaning method such as an aqueous cleaning system. Citrus- based cleaners are also an effective substitute.

Worn parts and scrap metal can be sold to a parts remanufacturer or metal recycler. Batteries can also be recycled along with non-hazardous waste such as cardboard, plastic and aluminum.

Proper housekeeping and spill control methods will help eliminate spillage of engine fluids and solvents. Drip pans can be used for product recovery and to prevent loss or runoff. Equipment is available for product transfer from drums to further prevent spills from occurring.

Marinas and Fuel Station Activities

Fueling operations are a common source of water pollution due to overfills and spills. Marinas can prevent such incidents and prepare for spills by developing a spill prevention plan. The plan should address proper procedures and maintenance of fuel station equipment. In addition, supplies and equipment for spill response should be identified. Booms and other sorbent materials should be immediately available and easily deployable. The plan will also help minimize environmental impact in the event of a spill.

Fuel pump nozzles should be equipped with automatic back pressure shut-off to prevent overfilling the fuel tank. Fuel nozzles should not be equipped with a clip designed to keep the nozzle open during refueling activities. Also, the use of fuel/air separators on fuel tank vents will further prevent fuel overflows from occurring. Marinas can make these devices available and promote the their use to boat owners.

Fuel storage tanks should be properly designed and periodically tested to check the integrity of the system. Storage systems should have secondary containment. Overflow alarms on tanks can further reduce the chances of a spill occurring. Accurate fuel storage record keeping can be used to verify that fuel is not being lost through leakage.

Marinas and Boater Education

Marinas can further enhance the quality of the environment by educating boaters on proper waste minimization. A well-operated marina with an established pollution prevention program will set a positive example for boaters, resulting in increased environmental protection. Marinas can provide resources and establish activities in several different areas to educate boaters and prevent pollution.

It is essential that marinas provide recycling facilities for all types of solid waste such as plastic, glass, aluminum, and paper. Marinas should encourage boaters to use recyclable products to reduce the solid waste impact on the environment. Specially designated recycling areas should be conveniently located and easily identifiable for boater use.

Marinas should also designate areas for boat maintenance and repair. These areas should be well maintained and include covered receptacles for non- recyclable solid wastes. Storm drains located throughout the marina area should be clearly identified to prevent the dumping of waste materials. In addition, marinas can provide recycling of waste oil and antifreeze from these activities.

As a further service to boaters, information on county household hazardous waste collection events can be provided by marinas.

For marinas that offer fishing charter services, an area should be established for cleaning fish. Sound fish waste management practices, including the proper disposal of fish waste, should be established. Marinas may also be able to a implement a fish composting program.

Marinas can establish policies prohibiting certain activities that threaten the marine environment. These policies can be established in a lease or contract with boaters. These policies can address proper boat maintenance procedures and waste recycling and disposal.

Newsletters, notices in monthly bills, postings and informal visits with boaters can further promote the benefits of pollution prevention. Topics such as proper disposal of marine sanitation devices (MSD), less toxic hull maintenance materials, and recycling will continue to remind boaters about environmental protection. Inexpensive awards, prizes or other recognition can be established for outstanding efforts made by boaters.

Boaters who are aware of the positive effects that clean boating and environmental stewardship can have can make a difference by rewarding clean marinas and clean manufacturers with your business, by obtaining and sharing relevant information and by getting involved in the process.

For more information about clean marinas click here.

How to Be a Clean Boater

The small, extra efforts and expenses required to practice clean boating and good environmental stewardship make sense economically, for our family's health and safety, for the environment, and for the future of recreational boating. Clean Boating includes all aspects of boat maintenance, operation, and housekeeping. Care must be taken during cleaning, sanding, painting, fueling, motoring, pumpout, and trash disposal to minimize potential effects on the aquatic environment. Here are a few considerations for the clean boater. For more information click here.

Cleaning Your Boat:

When washing a boat's deck and hull surface, people often use products that contain toxic ingredients such as chlorine, phosphates and ammonia. Just as these chemicals act as degreasers on the boat, they also act as degreasers on fish -- drying the natural oil fish need for their gills to take in oxygen. To reduce your need for toxic products, follow these tips:

  • Rinse your boat only with fresh water after each use. This will reduce your need for cleansers and heavy-duty products.
  • Use old-fashioned cleaning methods, including baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax and "elbow grease".

Sanding Your Boat:

Sanding and scraping your boat can release noxious paint and varnish particles into the air and water around you. Always sand and scrape on shore, away from the water and preferably in a dedicated work area. Use a vacuum sander, a tool that collects and stores the dust before it can get into the water or into your eyes and lungs!

Painting Your Boat:

To reduce organism growth, many boat owners apply anti-fouling paints to the boat bottom. However, most of these paints contain toxic metals such as copper, mercury, arsenic or tributyltin (TBT). All have severe impacts on human health and the underwater ecosystem; the use of some, such as TBT, has even been banned by federal law. To learn more about laws regulating bottom paints, as well as alternative painting products, contact your state boating agency and your local marine supply store.

Fueling and Bildge Maintenance:

Take precautions not to overfill your fuel tank. If you overflow onto the boat or dock, wipe up the spill with a rag; do not hose it into the water. If you do spill fuel or oil into the water, do not disperse it with detergent or soap! That only sends the problem down to the seafloor where it becomes more toxic and more difficult to clean up. If the spill is large or if it discolors the surface of the water, you must report it to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channels 16. Failure to do so is illegal and can cost you civil penalties and/or criminal sanctions.

Clean Motoring:

If you become grounded, do not attempt to motor your way out. This could cause serious damage not only to your motor and propellers, but also to the seafloor and local marine organisms. If you sight a marine mammal such as a manatee, dolphin or whale, slow down and keep a safe distance of at least 100 yards. It is illegal to feed, harass, molest or injure a marine mammal.


Just like lawn fertilizers and manure, human waste contains nutrients that can unnaturally stimulate algae growth and deplete the amount of oxygen in the water. Although it is also a repulsive visual pollutant, our primary concern about sewage in the water is its potential for carrying disease-causing pathogens to swimmers and shellfish.

Waterborne illnesses attributed to sewage pollution include hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, and gastroenteritis. The indicators used to detect the presence of sewage pollution are not the pathogens themselves, but rather a type of bacteria called fecal coliform bacteria. Fecal coliform found in water is an indicator of the presence of human waste and the potential harm for disease. When fecal coliform levels exceed designated public health thresholds, swimming beaches and shellfish beds may be closed, which can hurt tourism and deteriorate the quality of life for all of us.

Untreated sewage and other nutrient loading in a water body can come from various land-based sources including faulty residential, municipal, or marina septic treatment systems, poor farming management practices, or direct discharges from shoreside facilities and boats.

Consequently, discharge of raw sewage from a vessel within the three nautical mile limit of U.S. territorial waters is illegal. (The Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are considered to be within the three-mile limit). For boaters, this means that any direct flow-thru systems must be secured while a vessel is navigating inland waters or within three miles of shore.

Clean Trash Discharge:

Stow all loose items, plastic bags, drink cans, and other articles properly so they do not blow overboard. Never discard your garbage overboard. Whatever you take aboard, bring back. Under the Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act, and the international agreement MARPOL Annex V, it is illegal to dispose of plastic, or garbage mixed with plastic, into any U.S. waters. The discharge of any garbage is prohibited in the Great Lakes and connecting tributary waters.

Other Sources of Pollution

Polluted runoff is a major source of water pollution causing beach closings and advisories. More than half the nation's coastal water pollution comes from runoff. Therefore, clean boating and environmental stewardship begins at home, even if we live far from the nearest river. It is storm water from urban, suburban, and agricultural land that eventually supplies the pollutants that may affect our enjoyment of the water. For more information click here

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