Marine Fuel and Oil Spills: What to Do – Oil spills endanger public health, poison the drinking water, devastate natural resources, and disrupt the economy. But as we have become more dependent upon oil-based products, the risk for spills goes up. Oil and fuel from boats contain toxic components that come with harmful physical effects and can pose threats to public health and the environment, says the EPA.
As a boater of any kind, fuel spills are likely always on your mind. If you spill fuel or oil into the water, what steps would you take to mitigate the situation? Here are some helpful tips if this happens to you.
#1: Identify the cause and source of the spill. If you can, stop it at the source immediately.
#2: Notify the marina or fuel dock right away because they may have oil absorbent pads and booms to contain any spills that may occur. Dispose of used absorbent materials properly as hazardous waste.
#3: If the spill produces a sheen on the water, notify the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. Give them the following information:
- Location of the incident
- Cause or source of the spill
- Type and amount of fuel spilled
- Level of threat or danger
- Weather conditions at the spill location
#4: Prepare to use absorbent socks, pads and pillows for open-water spills to minimize damage while you wait for emergency response personnel. Each spill is different and will be handled differently, so always wait for advice from the marina and/or the U.S. Coast Guard.
#5: Don’t use detergent or dish soap on the spill in an attempt to make it disappear. This won’t work. It will only serve to it break the spill down into smaller droplets, which makes it harder to clean up and increasingly toxic to marine life.
Did you know that one pint (or two cups) of oil released into the water can spread into a one-acre oil slick? This is larger than a football field.
The best course of action is prevention. Boaters should always take care to be responsible on the water and take the proper steps to mitigate the risk of accidentally spilling fuel or oil while operating a vessel. Spills can quickly spiral out of control and become liabilities to the surrounding environment.