Posted on June 2, 2022
If boaters aren’t careful, their watercraft can create a lot of pollution that impacts local waters. This is what prompted the Clean Boating Act (CBA), passed by Congress in 2008. Under the CBA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to identify discharges that happen as a result of the normal use of recreational water vessels where it’s possible to have reasonable and practicable management practices. The goal is to limit the amount of pollution in waters around the United States in the many forms it can take. HydroHoist knows more about the CBA and what you can do to play a part in keeping our waters clean.
The CBA was added because of the Northwest Environmental Advocates et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency case. In this case, it was ruled that the EPA didn’t have the authority to exempt incidental discharge from normal use of boats from the Clean Water Act regulations already in place. In 2008, the CBA was passed. Instead of boats being subject to Clean Water Act permit requirements to authorize incidental discharges, it directs the EPA to evaluate those discharges and develop the management practices necessary to keep those discharges under control.
The CBA applies to recreational vessels, which means watercraft that you own, rent, and enjoy. “Recreational vessels” refers to vehicles that are used primarily for pleasure rather than commercial uses or transporting paying passengers. This includes everything from canoes and sailboats to personal watercraft and yachts.
The management practices that the EPA can develop include those methods, techniques, or tools that can reduce the impact of discharges from recreational vessels. While boaters don’t need to get a Clean Water Act permit, they are responsible for applying the developed management practices inappropriate ways for each type of discharge from their vessel.
The act is enforced by the United States Coast Guard. While these management practices are nationally applicable and apply to all vessels in U.S. waters, state and local governments might have broader or more stringent practices. Err on the side of caution and use the practices and laws that are more stringent.
Penalties for breaking the laws are determined under the Clean Water Act penalty provisions. The EPA does not charge or collect fees from boaters nor impound boats that aren’t compliant: the Coast Guard is the enforcement agency, and state agencies can also enforce CBA practices. The cost of complying will vary depending on the vessel type, use, maintenance, and types of discharge.
Clean boating is actually pretty intuitive—a lot of what you should be doing already does a lot for keeping the water clean.
Refuel your boat properly to keep oil and gas out of the water, and don’t get any petroleum-based products into the waters. Report any spills with sheens to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (and your local authorities where appropriate), and don’t try to take care of them yourself.
Don’t discharge untreated wastewater on inland waters, within three miles of shore, or in No Discharge Zones (NDZs). Dispose of sewage on onshore facilities where you can and look up where the NZDs are if you can’t. Human waste belongs in porta-potties, composting heads, or installed toilets with marine sanitation devices.
For all other waste, recycle what you can (paper, metal, glass, and many marine products) and properly dispose of what you can’t, including hazardous waste. Keep everything onboard, provide containers on your boat and dock for disposal and recycling, and keep those containers tied down to avoid spills.
Properly maintain your boat. Change the oil, check the fluid levels, and ensure that no drips or leaks could steadily pollute the water or get into the bilge. Keep the boat clean with environmentally friendly methods, and avoid pressure washing outside of designated wash-down areas.
Be careful with your local ecosystem. If you fish and don’t plan on eating what you catch, use heavy tackle designed for quick catch and release, handle the fish carefully, and return them to the water as quickly and safely as you can. If you get visible mud, plants, fish, and animals on your equipment, wash it off and give it time to dry completely before getting back in the water. Unwanted bait, fish parts, worms, and packing materials belong in the trash.
You can also stay in compliance by taking proper care of your boat with a high-quality boat lift. Proper care and keeping of your watercraft is part of keeping the water clean and keeping your boat in good working order, which both mean years of enjoying the water. Contact HydroHoist to start looking for your low maintenance, dependable performance, and worry-free security boat lift.