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View Poll Results: Given the same situation would you have reported the spill to the authorities?
Yes 11 55.00%
No 9 45.00%
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Old 28-09-2008, 19:09   #1
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Reporting an Oil Slick

Here's the situation. We came back to he marina tonight after a nice afternoon on the river. About 100 yrds from the cut into our marina I spot a slick coming from the general direction of our dock. Lori saw it too so I wasn't hallucinating. It was a pretty good slick enough to make me concerned. Our drinking water comes from downstream.

It appears it's likely a fuel leak into the bilge of a sailboat on the end of our dock. We've had a little rain and his bilge pump probably pumped the fuel overboard. We went back later but the wind and current had blown whatever fuel was in the water out into the river.

Anyhow, I looked on the door to the marina. No after hours contact number. I checked the Internet phone book for the marina owners name. Couldn't find one. So I called the CCG Environmental Response # and reported the spill. Now after the cops, Ministry of the Environment and Coast Guard are involved the owner is super pissed at me. I'm thinking maybe I should have kept my mouth shut.
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Old 28-09-2008, 19:24   #2
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I don't know what I would do. The fines here are huge, potentially life ruining. Up to $250,000 I think.

I guess it would depend on how big a spill it was.
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Old 28-09-2008, 19:31   #3
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These types of spills are common around every marina we have been in. I think that unless we felt it was a substantial and ongoing spill we would not make the call. Having said that, we have called on very large spills in a marina. Maybe the next time the marina manager will post an emergency number, Probably doesn't want to be bothered in his off hours and that is not your fault. You might remind him of this.
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Old 28-09-2008, 19:34   #4
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Don't know about Canada but in the U.S., no one has ever been prosecuted for failure to report a release. Although there have been thousands of penalties assessed for releases, they typically range much less than $5000 which is usually trivial compared with the cost of cleanup of even a minor spill.
As far as whether one should report it, it kind of depends on what benefit you expect to derive from reporting. It sounds as though the spill was too small to clean up or even contain. You implied but didn't say if you were sure it was petroleum or perhaps veg oil which is not illegal - my wife accidently spilled a bottle of olive oil which found it's way to the bilge and out the boat - looked bad but noting illegal or harmful. Since no one was around, and you took no steps to contain or clean it up yourself, what value is there in reporting it?

Certainly it serve no purpose to the owner of the boat who wasn't aware of the situation until it was too late. Not the marina operator who is not responsible and couldn't have been expected to assume any.

Guess my opinion is report it if it serve some purpose.
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Old 28-09-2008, 19:46   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knottybuoyz View Post
It was a pretty good slick enough to make me concerned. Our drinking water comes from downstream.

It appears it's likely a fuel leak into the bilge of a sailboat on the end of our dock. We've had a little rain and his bilge pump probably pumped the fuel overboard.
A little fuel/oil in the bilge mixed with a lot of water can look like a big spill.

Does your drinking water come though untreated?

If it was the scenario you described - rainwater into the boat, bilge pump pumps it out - I'd say it was a complete accident and also not an emergency.

I wouldn't have called...
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Old 28-09-2008, 20:01   #6
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I appreciate your insights fellas.

Normally I wouldn't have given a rats arse if I saw a little sheen on the water. This in my opinion was more than a little. I've seen a few and had to clean up some large fuel spills during my early career in the Coast Guard. One of my first jobs in the Coast Guard was cleaing up a fairly large, 17,000 litre diesel spill.

This was definitely diesel fuel there's no mistaking the smell. I would have attempted to contain the spill if I had anything to work with. I didn't and the marina certainly doesn't.

I guess the benefit to everyone will be, if it was indeed fuel in the bilge of this boat, that they get it out of the water where it can be fixed. Besides if it is indeed diesel in the bilge wouldn't that pretty much make a boat uninhabitable?
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Old 28-09-2008, 20:13   #7
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I would be more inclined to try and contact the owner first. I understand this may not be easy.

I would report it if I thought the spill was continuing AND was causing significant damage. I understand that one's view of " significant" is different to another's.

As I would be the reporting person, I would use my view of "significant".
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Old 28-09-2008, 22:43   #8
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Rick,

You are the one that should be pissed. Myself, I would have been tempted to put a plug in it and let the guy front the burden of his stinky boat.

But that's life! Not everyone is up to par on environment issues. Depending on the size of the spill, I probably would have put a nasty note on the guys boat along with a copy at the Dock Masters office.
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Old 07-10-2008, 06:45   #9
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The government treatment of minor fuel spills in the USA is so extreme that they would keep me from reporting it. Just remember the golden rule--treat the other boat owner as you would like him to treat you. How would you feel if you were facing a huge fine and jail time for a problem you weren't even aware you had. A note on the boat and a word with the dockmaster would be sufficient.
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Old 07-10-2008, 07:22   #10
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I probably wouldn't have reported the spill. What I would have done for sure was recommend that the owner install one of these bilge switches that will activate it it sees water, but NOT if it sees fuel oil.

Water Witch Bilge Switch Model 101 - 230

oil smart water pump switch

I have the former installed. I had the latter, but after it failed I went with the former.
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Old 07-10-2008, 07:31   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
The government treatment of minor fuel spills in the USA is so extreme that they would keep me from reporting it. Just remember the golden rule--treat the other boat owner as you would like him to treat you. How would you feel if you were facing a huge fine and jail time for a problem you weren't even aware you had. A note on the boat and a word with the dockmaster would be sufficient.
Sec 311 of the CWA contains civil penalties only. A release of oil isn't a felony and therefore isn't a criminal charge punishable by "jail time". The max fine is $5000 which is usually trivial in comparison to the cost of cleanup so I would categorize the government's treatment of minor spills as relatively lax.

Conversely, failure to report is a much more serious violation and can be a felony.

your choice.
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Old 07-10-2008, 07:49   #12
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Don--

While I agree with you to some extent, the unfortunate fact is that fuel/lube oil discharges in bilge water seem to be all too common and frequently by only a small number of yachts that are repeat offenders.

For example, in our small marina (55 boats) we had one owner of an old beaten up Catalina 36 that leaked like a sieve. He repeatedly discharged oil with his bilge water, sometimes so much that the entire basin (75 x 100 yard) would be covered by a slick. Aside from the damage to sea-life it fouled and ruined the bottom paint near our water lines, fouled dock lines and fouled raw water intakes for heads, cooling and air conditioning systems. I can tell you that trying to clean out the raw water lines to an A/C system that have been fouled with oil is a major trial. After repeated requests than demands that he deal with the matter without action, someone finally reported him to the authorities and he is now, thankfully, gone.

For very little money one can install a oil/water separator in a bilge discharge line (see Mycelx Bilgewater Oil Removal Filters and Environmental Products for Boaters ) and in my opinion there is no reason not to require these in the bilge discharge lines of every boat as a matter of law. These need not be in the lines from emergency pumps required to control flooding but they surely should be the routine bilge discharge lines.

For a minor spill I would notify the owner--once. For a larger, or repeated spills/discharges, I would certainly notify the authorities.

FWIW...

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Old 07-10-2008, 07:55   #13
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Since most people are taking the side of not reporting the spill, I will take the other side because I think there are a couple important issues that have not been addressed.

I have no idea how much was spilled, but if it was significant, lets say over 20 gallons, I would have reported it. The primary reason of course is to minimize environmental damage. The second reason is that insurance companies become involved if it is reported. So whats good about the insurance companies becoming involved? Boat owners can get reimbursed for damage done to their boats. The marina owner can also be reimbursed for damage done to the marina plus cleanup costs.

Its also being a good citizen to your fellow boaters and to the environment to report spills.

Somebody needs to be held responsible for cleaning up the mess and the responsible party or their insurance company should be held liable.

I have oil spill insurance on my insurance policy. My boat carries enough diesel to make one hell of a mess. That is the financially responsible thing to do.

I have seen many very light spills, probably under one gallon, that were nothing more than a small sheen on the water over a relatively small area that were not worth reporting.

At the very least, try to contact the owner or put a note on his boat that he is discharging fuel into the water.
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Old 07-10-2008, 08:08   #14
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I'm with you David.

Small spill / Seep - Get a hold of the owner

Big spill - Report it and get people involved.

It's hard to tell what you have.
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Old 07-10-2008, 08:38   #15
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What is a “harmful quantity” of discharged oil?

A harmful quantity is any quantity of discharged oil that violates state water quality standards, causes a film or sheen on the water’s surface, or leaves sludge or emulsion beneath the surface. For this reason, the Discharge of Oil regulation is commonly known as the “sheen” rule. Note that a floating sheen alone is not the only quantity that triggers the reporting requirements (e.g., sludge or emulsion deposited below the surface of the water may also be reportable).
Under this regulation, reporting oil discharges does not depend on the specific amount of oil discharged, but instead can be triggered by the presence of a visible sheen created by the discharged oil or the other criteria described above.

1002(a) Provides that the responsible party for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses a substantial threat of a discharge, is liable for: (1) certain specified damages resulting from the discharged oil; and (2) removal costs incurred in a manner consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP).


4301(b) Civil penalties are authorized at $25,000 for each day of violation or $1,000 per barrel of oil discharged. Failure to comply with a Federal removal order can result in civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each day of violation.

4301(a) and (c) The fine for failing to notify the appropriate Federal agency of a discharge is increased from a maximum of $10,000 to a maximum of $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization. The maximum prison term is also increased from one year to five years. The penalties for violations have a maximum of $250,000 and 15 years in prison.

Note that the penalties for discharging the oil include the fine AND the cleanup cost.

Note also that the penalties for not reporting ONLY apply to the person who spills the oil, not to those that observe it.

How many of you can say that you have never caused a sheen on the water--never spilled a single drop of oil or gas?? Have you all reported your sheens to the authorities or are you all fellow felons?
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