Even small amounts of oil introduced into the harbor environment can cause environmental problems, especially if small spills are chronic. A single cup of oil can spread a sheen over more than an acre of calm water. An oil sheen blocks light and oxygen, and oil in the water column and sediments harm fish and other aquatic life.
Frequent, small spills within a harbor can cause nearly as much damage as a larger oil spill, due to the cumulative impacts in the marine environment. In addition to harming aquatic life, petroleum products can also deteriorate the white foam used in floats and docks, discolor boat hulls, woodwork, and paint. Gasoline spills can also be a safety problem because of the product’s flammability.
You often see people fishing or enjoying the harbor from the floats; keeping oil, fuel, and other petroleum products out of the water is critical to keeping a clean and safe harbor. Potential sources of petroleum products in Alaskan harbors include:
- Aboveground or Underground Storage Tanks (ASTs or USTs)
- Vessel fueling operations
- Oil changes
- Spills from derelict or stricken vessels
- Leaks in hoses and/or pipes that connect oil storage tanks to pumps
- Oily bilgewater discharges
Within these pages, we hope to provide you with best management practices, examples, and inspiration for doing the most you can at your facility to avoid these small spills and leaks.