Do Your Part
Good Mate for Marinas
When you take the steps to green your marina, everyone wins: clean water is good for boating and for business.
Green Boating for Marinas - Docked boats. Photo by Marcus Arthur, from Flickr stream used under a creative commons license.
As a marina owner, you are in a unique position to stop trash and other pollution from entering the water. And when you take the steps to green your marina, everyone wins: clean water is good for boating and for business. Follow the tips below to keep your harbor free of unsightly and potentially harmful pollution.
One of the most important things you can do as a marina owner is to educate your customers on the steps they can take to enjoy their boats in an environmentally responsible way.
Set up trash receptacles and recycling bins with lids for proper disposal.
Trash in the water isn't just an eyesore; it damages boats, threatens the well-being of both people and wildlife, and undermines tourism and economic activities.
- Provide special collection bins for hazardous items, like batteries and flares, to keep them from being discarded in the water. These items are considered toxic waste; do not discard them into a dumpster.
- Provide plenty of containers for safely collecting cigarette butts, the number-one item found during the International Coastal Cleanup.
- Let people know that fishing line discarded in the water is dangerous for boat propellers and wildlife; encourage monofilament recycling through Berkley.
- Recycle plastic shrink-wrap. Check with your state or local government for options.
- Provide waste oil, used oil and fuel filter receptacles that are clearly marked and picked up regularly for proper disposal or recycling.
- Participate in Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. Help clean up, raise awareness and collect data by planning a Cleanup at or near your marina that includes your staff and their friends and families, as well as boat owners.
Take structural steps to reduce stormwater runoff.
Rainwater from storms starts off pure but readily picks up litter and pollutants as it drains into streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean. The cumulative effect over time can be devastating. Whenever you keep pollutants from reaching the ground, chances are you are protecting the water too.
- Install a filtration system.Filtration practices, which reduce the impact of runoff by using vegetation or sand near the marina to filter and settle pollutants, make a huge difference. Filtered runoff can be routed into drainage channels or other bodies of water, or left to evaporate or infiltrate the surrounding soil. Types of filtration systems include:
- Buffer strips: areas of vegetated land separating the marina’s operation areas from the water. They may resemble natural systems, like grassy meadows. Vegetation helps removed pollutants and settle sediment.
- Grassed swales: shallow ditches planted with vegetation to which all runoff is directed for slow filtration. The bottom elevation must be above the water table to allow runoff to infiltrate the surrounding soil. The vegetation prevents erosion, filters sediment and takes in some nutrients. Instead of a ditch, a berm or other barrier can sometimes be designed to route stormwater flow to a grassy swale or other treatment area.
- Sand filters: closed, self-contained beds of sand where stormwater runoff percolates down to be collected in underground pipes and reused for irrigation or returned back to a drainage channel. Enhanced sand filters use layers of peat, limestone and/or topsoil. Like buffer strips, they may also be covered with grass to improve pollutant removal. A variation of this system, sand trenches, has been developed specifically to treat parking-lot runoff.
- Implement detention practicesthat settle and retain suspended solids and associated pollutants and temporarily impound runoff. All detention practices use settling to remove particulates such as sediments and organic matter. They include:
- Extended detention ponds: Ponds that temporarily detain a percentage of stormwater runoff for up to 24 hours after a storm, allowing solids and pollutants to settle out. These ponds usually stay dry between storms.
- Constructed wetlands: Engineered systems that imitate the function of natural wetlands to treat and contain stormwater runoff and decrease pollutants reaching coastal waters.
Use best practices in maintaining your marina to prevent water contamination.
- Maintain proper functioning of all marina equipment. Monitor for proper use. Inspect and maintain sewage disposal facilities regularly.
- Landscape with native, drought-resistant plants, a practice called xeriscaping. Conserve water and reduce runoff by watering only as needed. Water at night to minimize evaporation and make sure sprinklers aren’t hitting pavement and creating runoff. To learn more, contact your local Agricultural Cooperative Extension Agent.
- Install water catch basins or other collection systems in boat wash areas and cover storm drains near the work area to prevent waste from being carried into marina waters by the storm water.
- Use water-based paints in place of more toxic, oil-based paints for parking lots.
- Keep storm drains clean and stencil messages near inlets on your property to educate boaters about the direct link between storm drains and nearby waters. Click here to learn more from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s storm drain stenciling program.
- Report anyone not complying with water pollution regulations to the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office.
Provide services to support boaters in handling sewage properly.
Think one boat doesn’t make a difference? A single overboard discharge of human waste in a shallow enclosed area like a bay can be detected across one square mile. Multiply the release of untreated sewage from a 20-gallon holding tank by all the boaters on the water, and it is easy to see that the impacts can be profound.
- Provide portable or stationary units or pumpout boats—or give boat owners information on nearby facilities.
- Clearly label dumping station equipment and provide clear instructions. Be sure to warn against the disposal of things other than sewage waste, which can keep the system from doing its job.
- Inspect and maintain sewage disposal facilities regularly. Monitor equipment use to be sure boaters are using it properly.
- Incorporate language into your slip leasing agreements encouraging the use of pumpout facilities.
- Provide clean onshore restrooms and encourage their use. Be sure they are adequate for the size of your marina so people aren’t discouraged from using them because of long lines. Clean and maintain on a regular schedule.
Provide boaters with easy-to-clean work areas away from the water.
An impervious floor will contain spills and make sweeping up easier. If there is no hard surface, provide tarpaulins to aid cleanup. Sweep and vacuum the work area frequently.
- Make environmentally friendly cleaning and maintenance products available to your customers in place of harsh cleaners. Pay special attention to traditional teak cleaners, which are caustic. They contain strong chemicals for bleaching the teak. Any product that recommends the user to wear rubber gloves or take special safety precautions is harmful to the environment as well. Mild soaps, scrub brushes and water wash-downs will keep teak decks non-skid and clean.
- Reuse thinners and solvents whenever possible. Let the particles settle, and then drain off the clear solvent for reuse. The sludge is hazardous waste and should be disposed of according to local regulations.
Help boaters reduce their fuel and oil pollution and prepare for accidental spills.
Gas, diesel fuel, and motor oil are not only toxic to people, plants and wildlife, they can block life-giving sunlight in the water. Even small oil spills spell SOS for water quality.
- Refined products such as motor oil and gasoline are more toxic than crude oils because they are water-soluble. That means they enter and disperse through the water column quickly (and are thus more difficult to remove once in the water) and are more easily absorbed by an animal's soft tissues Yet every year Americans spill, throw away or dump out more than 30 times the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound.
- Conduct visual inspections of all boats operating out of your marina to identify those posing pollution threats.
- Maintain transfer equipment and hoses in good repair and operating condition. Nozzles should be hard-connected and hung vertically when not in use. Don't allow hoses to drain into the ground or water.
- Use safety impact valves on dispensers.
- Marine operators should be present during fueling and must have direct access to emergency shut-off devices.
- Promote the use of automatic/backpressure/shutoff nozzles and fuel/air separators on air vents, vent guards or tank systems of inboard fuel tanks.
- Keep absorbent pads readily available at the fuel dock to mop up spills on the dock or in the water.
- Keep spill response carts with pads, absorbents and booms on standby.
- Provide stationary skids for fueling personal watercraft, which will help eliminate rocking and minimize the risk of spills.
- Provide impervious, fireproof containment trays for use when filling small cans. Encourage boaters to return them to the fuel tanks immediately after use.
- Provide secondary containment for piping (double wall piping) and a collection tray underneath the dispensing area.
- Routinely inspect storage tanks, as required by law.
- Set up an oil-recycling program to deliver used oil to a designated collection site such as a gas station.
- Make it easy for boat owners to recycle their steel oil filters, which can be made into new products.
Support boat owners in operating their boats safely.
Post navigation guides around the marina to alert boaters to sensitive habitats in your area, protected species they may encounter and the potential dangers of invasive species. Also, encourage boaters to maintain up-to-date charts. Here are some additional navigation guides you can post:
Know Your Water Colors
- Brown, brown, run aground: These shallows could contain land formations or aquatic grass beds.
- While, white, run aground you might: Sand bars, which appear white, can be shallower than they look. Navigate with caution.
- Green, green, nice and clean: These areas are usually free of shallows, but consult current marine charts to be sure.
- Blue, blue, cruise on through: These deep-water areas are free of reefs or grass beds, but remember that reefs and rocks rise abruptly, so give yourself plenty of time to maneuver.
Know Your Markers
- "No Wake" markers: usually prominently marked on pilings or shoreline structures like bulkheads, docks or piers.
- Reef light towers: prominent, metal A-frame structures with a number posted on them.
- Shoal markers: solitary steel I-beams rising above the water, usually with a diamond-shaped DANGER sign attached.
Reef light towers or shoal markers mark many extensive shallow reef areas. DO NOT APPROACH THESE AREAS! You can determine where the edge is by observing the water. Along the edge of sea grass flats, look for a ripple effect or other change on the surface. Surface water above shallow sandbars will appear glassy.
Share tips for safe vessel maintenance with your customers.
Post these tips or hand out them with purchases as a flyer. Encourage boaters to read the product warning labels and wear appropriate clothing and equipment to protect their skin, lungs and eyes from injury.
- Rinse and wash your boat with fresh water in a contained area every time you take it out of the water.
- If your vessel is in the water, wash it by hand using fresh water. Remember: more frequent cleaning with less potent materials will be much kinder to the environment.
- Use phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents and cleaning compounds.
- Wax your boat every year—a good coat of wax will prevent surface build-up.
- Remove the vessel from the water to perform above- and below-waterline scraping, sanding, plastic repair, painting and barnacle removal. Keep the vessel in a contained area.
- Capture and contain particulate matter when working on your boat.
- Perform maintenance activities in dry-dock or another enclosed area.