Because of the potential harm oil and gas spills can cause, it is critical for marinas and boaters to follow petroleum control best management practices to protect health and water quality. While oil and gas provide many benefits — like keeping boats running and marinas in business — when released into the environments, there can be destructive and sometimes fatal consequences for aquatic plants and wildlife, including fish, birds, invertebrates, and people.
For example, oil can affect drinking water supplies if spilled near a water intake. A gasoline or diesel spill poses a significant fire and explosion hazard. Fuel and oil spills may release toxic vapors and may also increase exposure to carcinogens, including benzene and PCBs. In addition, spilled oil is unsightly and can stain the shoreline.
Once petroleum is spilled into the water, it may float on the surface, evaporate into the air, become suspended in the water column, or settle to the lake bottom. Floating petroleum is particularly noxious because it reduces light penetration into the water and stifles the exchange of oxygen, which is necessary for a healthy aquatic ecosystem. It also contaminates the uppermost portion of the water column, which contains thousands of species of plants, animals, and microbes.
Many aspects of petroleum control are addressed in this Unit, including spill prevention, practices to reduce small drips and leaks like when fueling, training employees to be prepared should an emergency event take place, boaters’ roles in sustaining water quality, regulations related to petroleum storage and emergency response plans and actions, along with much more.
Best Management Practices and Legal Setting
This Unit includes two sections of best management practices, an overview of the legal setting, and a Unit Review. Best management practices cover preventing spills and preparing for and responding to emergencies. The following list provides an outline of BMPs you will find within each section.
Section 1: Preventing Spills at the Source
- Install and Protect Petroleum Storage Tanks Properly
- Avoid Waves and Wakes
- Install Environmental Controls at the Pump
- Advocate use of Oil-Absorbent Materials
- Supervise Fueling
- Promote Installation of Fuel/Air Separators
- Maintain Fuel Transfer Equipment
- Minimize Spills and Leaks from Machinery
- Offer Spill-Proof Oil Changes
- Provide an Oil-Water Separator
Section 2: Emergency Preparedness
- Assess Hazards
- Prepare a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan
- Develop Emergency Response Plans
- Make Plans Accessible
- Share Your Emergency Response Plan
- Be Prepared to Respond to a Spill
- Be Prepared for a Fire
- Train Employees
- Maintain Oil Spill Response Equipment
- Store Oil Spill Response Equipment Wisely
- Maintain Material Safety Data Sheets
- File Tier Two Forms
Before reviewing the best management practices, please take a few moments to review the legal setting for petroleum control at marinas. This overview of federal laws and regulations aims to provide a framework for shared requirements. However, it is a starting point and not a complete reference; please consult your state officials for complete requirements. Also, see: State Laws page for your state.
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act)
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) of 1972, as amended, and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 prohibit the discharge of oil of any kind into or upon the navigable waters of the United States, including all Great Lakes water. This includes any discharge that causes a film, sheen, discoloration, sludge, or emulsion on or beneath the surface of the water. Any such discharge may result in a civil penalty.
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) must be notified any time a petroleum or oil spill results in a sheen on the water. Call the USCG National Response Center (NRC) at (800) 424-8802. Report the location, source, size, color, substance, and time of the spill. You (the spiller) are required to report a spill — failure to report or clean up a spill is a violation of the law and may result in fines.
You are also required to contact your state in the case of a spill. See: Emergency Preparedness section of this Unit.
You are not to use detergents, emulsifiers, soaps, or other dispersing agents to dissipate oil on the water or in a bilge without first obtaining permission from the U.S. Coast Guard (as part of the Clean Water Act).
Soaps, emulsifiers, and dispersants cause the petroleum to spread contamination throughout the water column and may then sink and mix with the sediments where it may remain for years. Also, the soaps themselves are pollutants. You may be fined up to $25,000 per incident for the unauthorized use of soap or other dispersing agents on the water or in the bilge.
Persons observing unauthorized use of dispersants and/or intentional or unreported discharges should call the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (NRC) at (800) 424-8802.
Oil Pollution Placard
All vessels 26 feet in length and over are required to display a placard that is at least 5 inches by 8 inches, made of durable material, and fixed in a conspicuous place in the machinery spaces or at the bilge pump control station (33 CFR 155.450).
The placard must read:
Discharge of Oil Prohibited
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or the waters of the contiguous zone if such discharge causes a film or sheen upon, or discoloration of, the surface of the water, or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water. Violators are subject to a penalty of $5,000.
The Clean Water Act requires that the U.S. Coast Guard be notified anytime a spill produces a sheen on the water. Failure to report a spill may result in civil penalties. Report spills to (800) 424-8802.
Oil and Hazardous Substance Liability
United States Code (U.S.C.), Title 33, Chapter 26, Subchapter III, §1321 administers the liability and penalties of a fuel discharge to waters within Federal jurisdictions, including the Great Lakes.
Laws, Regulations, and Policies Pertaining to Underground Storage Tanks
The U.S. EPA provides summaries of laws, regulations, and policies pertaining to Underground Storage Tanks. All underground storage tanks containing flammable or combustible liquids must meet the requirements of the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations (BUSTR). A complete version of the law that governs underground storage tanks (USTs) is available in the U.S. Code, Title 42, Chapter 82, Subchapter IX. This law incorporates amendments to Subtitle I of the Solid Waste Disposal Act as well as the UST provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and gives EPA the authority to regulate USTs. EPA’s regulations concerning USTs are contained in 40 CFR Part 280, 40 CFR Part 281 and 40 CFR Parts 282.50-282.105.
EPA’s regulations concerning USTs are contained in 40 CFR Part 280, 40 CFR Part 281 and 40 CFR Parts 282.50-282.105. The regulations are divided into three sections:
- Technical requirements
- Financial responsibility requirements
- State program approval objectives
New Training Requirement
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing new UST requirements including operator training and secondary containment.
Laws, Regulations, and Policies Pertaining to Aboveground Storage Tanks
Aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) generally need to meet U.S. EPA’s Spill, Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements (40 CFR, Part 112). For more information on SPCC regulations, see: Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule (EPA). SPCC applies to facilities with a single AST with a storage capacity greater than 660 gallons, or multiple tanks with a combined capacity greater than 1,320 gallons.
Laws and Regulations defining EPA’s Emergency Management Program
A variety of laws and regulations apply to emergency management and response; for a summary, see: Emergency Management Laws and Regulations.This includes the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA); Oil Pollution Act (OPA); Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA); Superfund Amendments & Reauthorization Act (SARA), Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA); Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act (CSISSFRRA), and Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA).
Oil Pollution Prevention Regulation and Oil Pollution Act
Originally published in 1973 under the authority of §311 of the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation sets forth requirements for prevention of, preparedness for, and response to oil discharges at specific non-transportation-related facilities. To prevent oil from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines, and to contain discharges of oil, the regulation requires these facilities to develop and implement Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans and establishes procedures, methods, and equipment requirements (Subparts A, B, and C).
Operators are required to prepare and implement a SPCC Plan to prevent any discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines if the facility has an aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or an underground storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. This written plan describes all measures taken at your facility to prevent and control a release of oil or petroleum products in the event that your secondary containment fails. The plan should be certified by a Professional Engineer, or in some cases, may be self-certified. For more information, see: EPA SPCC Plan Guide for Marinas and Boat Owners.
In 1990, the Oil Pollution Act (33 U.S.C. 40) amended the Clean Water Act to require some oil storage facilities to prepare Facility Response Plans. On July 1, 1994, EPA finalized the revisions that direct facility owners or operators to prepare and submit plans for responding to a worst-case discharge of oil (Subpart D).
Occupational Safety and Health Act
In accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (29 USC Sec. 657) operators must have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all products used at the facility (including diesel and gas), as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 USC Sec. 657).
A variety of OSHA fire protection and prevention regulations may apply to marinas, see: Safety and Health Regulations for Construction – Fire Protection and Prevention (OSHA).