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It's the Law

Discharge of Oil and Other Hazardous Substances


You are not allowed to discharge oil or hazardous substances into the water.

You are not allowed to dump oil into the bilge of the vessel without means for proper disposal.

You must dispose of oil waste at an approved reception facility. On recreational vessels, a bucket or bailer is adequate for temporary storage prior to disposing of the oil waste at an approved facility.

Discharge of Oil Prohibited
Oil discharge placard

If boating on federally controlled waters and your vessel is 26 feet or longer, you must display a 5 x 8-inch placard made of durable material, fixed in a conspicuous place in the machinery spaces or at the bilge pump control station, stating the Federal Water Pollution Control Act’s law.

If your vessel discharges oil or hazardous substance(s) into the water:

  • Immediately call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.
  • Also notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection at 1-888-304-1133.

Hazardous Substances and the Boater

No paint or varnish product is environmentally safe, and all are toxic to both humans and marine life. When cleaning or painting your vessel, it’s important to protect the water.

Minimize your use of toxic materials while the vessel is in the water. Use biodegradable and non-phosphate products whenever possible.

Use an absorbent sponge in your bilge to soak up oil. Have oil absorbent pads or rags on hand in case of a spill. When changing engine oil, wipe up any spills so that the oil isn’t pumped overboard with the bilge water.

Use a suspended tarp to catch spills, paint scrapings, or debris that would end up in the water.

Inspect your fuel lines periodically. Replace bad ones with USCG–approved Type A, alcohol-resistant fuel line hoses.

Dispose of old antifreeze and oil on shore in a recycling container.

Antifouling paint is used to prevent the growth of organisms on vessel bottoms. Some antifouling paints use tributyltin, which has been found to cause abnormal development and reduced reproduction in marine life. Instead use a “non-fouling” paint (silicon or teflon based) or a non-ablative (copper based) antifouling paint.