SANDUSKY, OH – Boaters trying to save a few bucks on the cost of marine fuel may be responsible for minor accidental fuel spills into public waterways when using portable containers to refill their boat gas tanks. Not paying attention to the refueling process while at a marine fuel dock also can lead to harmful fuel spills.
A better idea, according to partners in the Ohio Clean Marinas Program, is to use some recommended best management practices when refueling a boat that will help prevent fuel spills at boat docks and launch ramps.
Gasoline and diesel may be spilled during refueling when a backsplash of boat fuel becomes expelled from a gas tank filler tube or through a vent fitting. Spills of this type harm aquatic life, create a safety hazard, waste money and can result in cosmetic damage to boat hulls and decks.
The use of portable containers that typically are filled at a land-based gas station that offers lower fuel prices when compared to an on-water marine dock, may lead to minor fuel spills into the water that creates a potential fire hazard when boats are refueled near or on the water. State and federal laws restrict the manner in which oil and fuel may be dispensed into a portable container and into a watercraft fuel tank. Many of these same laws and protocols also guide reporting requirements when spills occur on or near the water.
The Ohio Clean Marinas Program offers these refueling tips that help keep waterways clean and safe for humans as well as animals and aquatic inhabitants:
• Fill boat fuel tanks to no more than 90 percent capacity, especially in summer as fuel drawn from cool underground storage tanks will expand as it warms up aboard your vessel. If your vessel is equipped with a power ventilation system, turn it on for at least four minutes after fueling and before starting your engine to remove gas vapors in the bilge.
• Rather than filling your boat fuel tank upon returning to port, wait and fill it just before leaving on your next trip. This practice will reduce spills due to thermal expansion because the fuel will be used before it has a chance to warm up.
• Fill portable tanks on shore where spills are less likely to occur and easier to clean up. Slow down at the beginning and end of fueling to reduce spills
• Place an approved fuel absorption pad, fuel bib or protective container over the fuel filler opening or under the fuel vent to collect accidental overflow. Be sure to properly dispose of these absorption pads when used.
For additional tips and best management practices involving boat refueling, bilge maintenance, the disposal of oil and fuel absorbent materials, emissions control and use of preventive equipment, go online to the Ohio Clean Marinas Program web page at www.ohioseagrant.osu.edu/cleanboaters
The Ohio Clean Marinas Program and Clean Boater Program is a proactive partnership among the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and their boating partners designed to encourage marinas and boaters to use simple, innovative solutions to keep Ohio’s coastal and inland waterway resources clean.