Oils and Fuel Spills

What to do if you spilled fuel or oil into the water?

  • First identify the cause and source of the spill and if possible, stop the source immediately. Remember, fuel leaks are dangerous – they can cause fire or an explosion.
  • Notify the marina or fuel dock (if applicable), as they should have oil absorbent pads and booms to contain the spill. Make sure you dispose of used absorbent materials as hazardous waste.
  • Call the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. You may need to provide:

                    o   Location of the incident
                    o   Cause or source of spill
                    o   Type of fuel spilled
                    o   Amount of fuel spilled
                    o   Level of danger or threat
                    o   Weather conditions at location

  • Lastly, but most importantly, do not attempt to clean up a spill by yourself. Each spill will be handled differently, so it is best to get advice from the marina and/or the U.S. Coast Guard. Never use detergent or dish soap to make the spill disappear. Using dish soap dispersant does not get rid of the spill; it simply breaks it down into smaller droplets. This makes the spill harder to clean up and ultimately more toxic to marine life because of the additional chemicals. Remember, under Federal Law (33 USC 1321) you are liable for civil and/or criminal penalties if you cause any type of oil or hazardous substance spill.

With care, recreational boaters can take steps to mitigate the risk of accidentally spilling oil or fuel while operating their vessel. To prevent spills or accidental discharge, see the Spillproof Fueling and Bilge Maintenance sections.

Green Boating Guide: