Recreators with motorized boats depend on the benefits provided by oil. A healthy respect and proper handling is required when using toxic petroleum products. These materials can have negative affects on human health and, if spilled or otherwise improperly handled, can severely damage our aquatic environment (even in small quantities).

  • A pint of oil can produce a slick of approximately one acre on the surface of water.
  • Just one gallon of oil (about the same amount as a typical oil change) can ruin a million gallons of drinking water.

The cumulative effect of many small spills has a serious impact on our aquatic environment. There are many steps that you can take to prevent oil and fuel pollution. Most of the tips below save money, too!

Preventive engine maintenance

  • Keep the engine well-tuned and operating efficiently.
  • Inspect fuel lines, hoses, hydraulic lines, valves, oil seals, gaskets and connections for deterioration and leaks. Fix leaks and replace worn parts. When replacing hoses, new sections should be the right length to prevent damage and leaks. Properly secure lines and hoses to prevent chafing, abrasion, and damage.
  • Choose Coast Guard-approved alcohol-resistant fuel lines.
  • Install drip pans under all equipment that might leak.
  • Avoid using solvents or toxic chemicals to clean engine parts. Use mechanical means (such as hand-scraping caked oil) or less-toxic water-based solvents. Do not let solvent run into the bilge.
  • Transfer and remove fluids with care, using funnels, pumps and absorbents to eliminate drips and spills. Keep the bilge area clean.

Do-it-yourself oil changers

  • If you change the engine oil yourself, use a closed system to prevent spills. (A closed system is a portable vacuum oil change pump drained into a container that can be closed to prevent spills during transfer of oil. They are available at most marine supply stores.)
  • Do not mix used oil and oil filters with other waste. Keep them separated for recycling.
  • Always keep oil-only absorbents on hand to wipe up spills.
  • Used oil absorbents are hazardous wastes and must be disposed of at a marina or fuel dock with an oil absorbent exchange program, or at a hazardous waste disposal facility. See a List of Government Household Hazardous Waste Websites.

What to do if an oil or chemical spill occurs

  • If you see or cause a spill, do not apply soaps to disperse the sheen (it is illegal and makes the problem worse).
  • You must report all oil and chemical spills to (800) 424-8802, (800) OILS911 (645-7911) and to the marina office immediately.
  • Find used oil and oil filter recycling locations by calling (800) CLEANUP (253-2687) or visit Earth911.com. See here for a list of resources to find used oil collection centers. 

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