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What You Can Do...
In Your Own Backyard
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On Your Boat
As a Citizen

On Your Boat

One could argue that boaters get more pleasure from Long Island Sound than anyone else. Boaters have a lot to lose when fish disappear, debris or mats of algae float on the surface, or the water is turbid and smelly. As a boater, you can help avoid these distasteful and harmful conditions.

Don't dump it overboard!

The waste from one small boat may not look like much in the vast open space of the Sound. But there are thousands of boats in the water on good days and a couple of hundred thousand that use the Sound during a year. (see Soundkeeper's Pumpout Program to get your boat pumped out)

Pump out your sewage.

Sewage from a boat is just like sewage from a municipality. If it winds up untreated in the water, it is a source of pathogens, nutrients, and toxics. High coliform counts and shellfish contamination in some harbors have been traced to dumping of marine sewage.

Even when onboard treatment reduces pathogens, the nutrients and toxics remain unchanged. A further problem is that disinfectants from marine toilets (e.g., formaldehyde or phenols) are toxic to marine life.

The safest solution is to avoid discharging your sewage, treated or untreated, into the water. This means carrying your wastes ashore or installing a holding tank, using it, and having it pumped out. Admittedly, pump-out facilities are not always readily available - only 60 of the 350 marinas, boat yards, and docks along the Sound offer pump-out services. Public demand and legislation are likely to increase their availability. Meanwhile, use the ones that are there.

Hold onto the floatables.

Plastic food packaging and containers, six-pack holders, and fishing lines are dangerous to marine life, and dumping plastic items overboard is forbidden by the U.S. Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act. There are regulations about controlling trash disposal that vary with the size of your boat. Make it your business to learn what they are. Many marinas are now providing recycling bins for trash. If yours doesn't, encourage them to do so.

Handle with care.

In recent years, large spills have provided dramatic evidence of the damage that petroleum can do to fish, birds, and the coastline environment. Even a small amount of petroleum can spread over a surprising large surface area. Keep this in mind as you fuel your boat or dispose of waste oil.

The guidelines for handling hazardous household waste apply equally to the wide variety of cleaning agents, paints, and varnishes used in the upkeep of boats (see What You Can Do: Household Hazardous Wastes.) Spilling or dumping hazardous materials overboard will add to the general pollution load of the Sound. Worse
yet, they are most likely to be spilled in the fragile near-shore habitat among the vulnerable microorganisms, young fish, and shellfish that gather there.

Observe the speed limit.

Your wake can cause erosion along the shoreline and disrupt the delicate balance in wetlands. Even a few knots above the posted speed can be enough to do significant damage.

Be an environmentally aware boater.

The following suggestions are drawn from SoundChoices*, a practical guide that contains many further suggestions and also gives a list of the location of pump-out facilities on the Sound.

  • Install holding tanks and use pump-out facilities
  • Try non-formaldehyde products for disinfection and odor reduction
  • Lobby manufacturers for more efficient marine sanitary devices
  • Remove excess packaging before you carry supplies on board
  • Keep a covered garbage can or well-secured trash bag where everyone will use it
  • Dispose of all garbage at onshore facilities
  • Take care when refueling to spillage
  • When launching from a ramp, fuel up beforehand
  • Encourage marina owners and yacht clubs to provide convenient containers to collect used motor oil
  • Check your engine and fuel lines for leaks
  • Keep a pillow that absorbs oil in your bilge
  • Switch from ethylene glycol antifreeze to less-toxic propylene glycol
  • When possible, perform maintenance indoors or away from the shoreline
  • Do not use tin-based antifoulant paints, which are illegal except for limited application
  • Encourage marinas to install catch basins to collect scrapings and other toxics from paint spraying, sand-blasting, and repairs

* Source SoundChoices. SoundWaters, Two Stamford Landing, Stamford, CT 06902. Used with permission of SoundWaters.

Soundkeeper, Inc.