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Small Scale Spill Prevention

by Norris Comer

We all have heard of the highly publicized big oil spills like the BP/Deepwater Horizon incident of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico and the 1989 Exxon/Valdez oil spill in Alaska. But did you know that small spills, such as oily bilgewater discharges, account for an estimated 75% of oil dumped into local Puget Sound waters over the last ten years according to Washington Sea Grant?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay that way. The Clean Marina Program, a partnership of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Northwest Marine Trade Association, and Washington Sea Grant, is getting small-oil-spill prevention kits out to boaters. The Clean Marina Program has worked for 20 years to minimize small vessel spill impact, and the summer of 2016 marks the first time the partners are appealing to private boaters directly instead of marine managers.

The small oil spill prevention kits contain an absorbent pillow that is placed alongside bilge pumps to prevent oily discharges from entering the water. Last year, Washington Sea Grant Boating Program Specialist Aaron Barnett succeeded in distributing 1,000 free small oil spill prevention kits in a successful trial run. Since then, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Instructor Mike Brough has noticed that more and more boaters are requesting the kits. Boaters seem to want to do the right thing for the environment (no surprise there), and the kits are in hot demand.

This summer, the program hopes to hand out another 1,000 free kits in the ongoing effort to keep Puget Sound as clean as possible. Kits can be obtained during U.S. Coast Guard boat inspections or at marinas throughout Puget Sound. If you don’t have one of these kits, you should consider it. Wouldn’t it feel good to do your part? Every little bit helps.

Email aaronb5@uw.edu to learn more about the effort and to get your own kit. Visit wsg.washington.edu for more information about this program and other projects associated with Washington Sea Grant.

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