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Water: Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments

D. Petroleum Control Management Measure

Reduce the amount of fuel and oil from boat bilges and fuel tank air vents entering marina and surface waters.

1. Applicability

This management measure is intended to be applied by States to boats that have inboard fuel tanks. Under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, States are subject to a number of requirements as they develop coastal nonpoint source programs in conformity with this measure and will have some flexibility in doing so. The application of management measures by States is described more fully in Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance, published jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.


2. Description

Fuel and oil are commonly released into surface waters during fueling operations through the fuel tank air vent, during bilge pumping, and from spills directly into surface waters and into boats during fueling. Oil and grease from the operation and maintenance of inboard engines are a source of petroleum in bilges.

3. Management Measure Selection This measure was selected because (1) the practices have shown the ability to minimize the introduction of petroleum from fueling and bilge pumping and thus prevent a visible sheen on the water's surface and (2) New York State requires the installation of fuel/air separators on new boats. Boaters and fuel station attendants often inadvertently spill fuel when "topping off" fuel tanks. They know the tank is full when fuel comes out of the mandatory air vent. This is preventable by the use of attachments on the air vent that suppress overflowing. Boat bilges have automatic and manual pumps that empty directly to marina or surface waters. When activated, these pumps often cause direct discharge of oil and grease from operation and maintenance of inboard engines. Oil-absorbing bilge pads contain oil and grease and prevent their discharge.

4. Practices As discussed more fully at the beginning of this chapter and in Chapter 1, the following practices are described for illustrative purposes only. State programs need not require implementation of these practices. However, as a practical matter, EPA anticipates that the management measure set forth above generally will be implemented by applying one or more management practices appropriate to the source, location, and climate. The practices set forth below have been found by EPA to be representative of the types of practices that can be applied successfully to achieve the management measure described above.


  • a. Use automatic shut-off nozzles and promote the use of fuel/air separators on air vents or tank stems of inboard fuel tanks to reduce the amount of fuel spilled into surface waters during fueling of boats.

During the fueling of inboard tanks fuel can be spilled into surface waters due to overfilling the fuel tank. An automatic shut-off nozzle is partially effective in reducing the potential for overfilling, but often during fueling operations fuel overflow s from the air vent on the fuel tank of the boat. Attachments for vents on fuel tanks, which act as fuel/air separators, are available commercially. These devices release air and vapor but contain overflowing fuel. The State of New York passed a law in 1990 that requires that all boats sold in New York after January 1, 1994, have air vents on their fuel tanks that are designed to prevent fuel overflows or spills. The commercial cost of these devices is approximately $85 per unit. Marinas can make these units available in their retail stores and post notices describing their spill prevention benefits and availability.


  • b. Promote the use of oil-absorbing materials in the bilge areas of all boats with inboard engines. Examine these materials at least once a year and replace as necessary. Recycle them if possible, or dispose of them in accordance with petroleum disposal regulations.

Marina operators can advertise the availability of such oil-absorbing material or can include the cost of installation of such material in yearly dock fees. Marina operators can also insert a clause in their leasing agreements that boaters will use oil-absorbing material in their bilges. Pillows/pads that absorb oils and petroleum-based products and not water are available. These pillows/pads absorb up to 12 times their weight in oil and cost approximately $40 for a package of 10 (Lab Safety, 1991).




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