on the Sound
Recreational boating provides relaxation and enjoyment for thousands
of Puget Sound area residents. Boating is an important industry
providing jobs in boat manufacturing and service. Boating also
contributes to the environmental problems facing the waters of
the Puget Sound region. All of us-especially boaters-have a lot
to lose if the quality of our waters deteriorates. Poor boating
practices can also destroy the beauty that draws us out on the
water. As a boater, you can help ensure that you won’t damage
the Sound that bangs you so much pleasure.
Many of the cleaning, dissolving, and painting agents used for
boat maintenance are toxic to aquatic life. A few simple precautions
can prevent these chemicals from harming our rivers, lakes and
Copper and tributyltin (TBI) bottom paints, used to prevent fouling,
cause particular environmental damage. The impact of bottom paints
can be lessened if we control the amount that enters our waters.
Copper paints may be a better choice than TBT paints. TBT pollution
has been shown to damage our oyster populations and has been banned
in Washington State on all but aluminum boats. Avoid TBT paints
when your repaint your hull, alternative products are available.
When scraping the boat bottom, catch the scrapings with a drop
cloth. Use sanders with vacuum attachments and sweep up any scrapings
or dust that may escape your drop cloth and store them for your
next hazardous waste day collection
The phosphates in many soaps used to wash boats can contribute
to excessive algal growth in our waters. Rinse and scrub your
boat with a brush after each use instead of using soap. If your
boat is stained, use phosphate free soap/laundry detergent or
any of the alternatives suggested in the chapter on hazardous
waste to get it clean. When possible, avoid products that remove
stains and make your boat shine. They are extremely toxic. Avoid
products with label warnings indicating that they are toxic, these
products can kill marine life if washed overboard or accidentally
spilled into the water.
Bilge water represents an especially thorny problem for boaters.
Since bilge water often contains oily wastes, there is a temptation
to add detergent to the bilge water and pump it overboard. The
detergent, which may be harmful in its own right, breaks the oil
into small, floating droplets which cover a greater area of the
surface. Increasing the area of the oil increases the impact on
the larval stages of many marine creatures which call the surface
layer of the water home. The practice of adding detergent and
pumping bilge wastes overboard is not only environmentally damaging,
it is illegal. The Coast Guard can impose fines of up to $10,000
for such activity. It seems like the only solution is to remove
the oil/water mixture to the oil recycling container at the local
marina. But wait, the signs indicate “Oil only – no bilge wastes.”
What can a conscientious boater do? First, fix any leaks that
might contribute oil to the bilges. Next, before pumping the bilge
water overboard, capture the floating surface oil with oil absorbent
pads, paper towels or old nylon stockings. To address this problem,
legislation may be required.
overflows are dangerous to people and toxic to fish and other
aquatic life. The traditional method for determining a full tank
is watching for fuel spilling from the tank over-flow vent. You
can prevent these overflows by estimating fuel consumption relative
to your tank capacity. With a little practice, you will become
an expert at gauging when your tank is full. Until then, wipe
up spills immediately to keep them from reaching the water.
Long recognized as a problem in lakes and streams, nutrient enrichment
is starting to be seen in some bays and inlets of Puget Sound.
Nutrient enrichment “fertilizes” the waters and contributes to
algal blooms and oxygen depletion which can cause fish kills.
As well as adding to the nutrients that are affecting parts of
the Sound, human waste may contain disease-causing bacteria and
viruses. Eliminating or minimizing the discharge of boat sewage
helps maintain water quality, reduces risk of disease, and protects
shellfish beds from contamination.
it is important that you treat or dispose of your sewage property.
It is illegal to dump untreated sewage into the water and violators
are subject to a $2,000 fine. If you have a toilet on your boat,
it must be equipped with a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD). If
your boat does not have an installed toilet, consider using a
portable toilet. Many marinas have dump stations to empty portable
Sanitation Device is designed to prevent the overboard discharge
of untreated sewage. There are three main types of MSDs. Type
I breaks-up and disinfects the sewage with chemicals, then discharges
the treated sewage overboard. Type II treats the sewage to a higher
degree through maceration and biological decomposition. Type III
temporarily stores sewage in a tank on the boat. While deodorizers
and formaldehyde are added to the tank, this does not constitute
increasing concern about the effect of chlorine on aquatic life.
Many Type I and Type II marine sanitation devices use chlorine
and other disinfectants. The adverse impact of chlorine can be
lessened if you discharge treated waste while under way and only
in waters deeper than 20 feet where tidal movement will disperse
the chlorinated waste. Whenever possible, use chemical additives
in your MSD that do not contain chlorine or formaldehyde. Because
marina pilings hamper the water’s ability to flush through the
area, overboard dumping at a slip will deteriorate water quality
in the immediate area of your boat, lead to foul-smelling water
and an increased risk of disease. Boats with Type Ill systems
and those berthed at marinas must use on-shore sanitary facilities.
It is illegal to empty holding tanks in U.S. territorial waters.
of the MSD type on your boat, sewage pump-out stations or portable
pump-out units should be used when moored in marinas and to empty
Trash is the most visible kind of Puget Sound pollution. Designate
a storage area on your boat specifically for trash and regularly
take the trash to shore for proper disposal. Beer cans and tabs,
styrofoam cups, plastic bags, fishing line fragments, and other
debris can trap, injure, and kill aquatic life and birds. Most
of this debris doesn’t disintegrate, instead it remains in the
Sound for years and continues to kill wildlife, foul propellers
and clog engine cooling water intakes. Call the Coast Guard at
(206) 286-5540 if you see any boat – commercial or recreational
– dumping plastics of other trash in the water. It’s illegal.
with your port or marina to be sure the following questions are
answered to protect local water quality: