County supervisors approve motor oil exchange program for Marina del Rey

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved at its April 7 meeting a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with The Bay Foundation to launch an Absorbent Pad Exchange Program in Marina del Rey to help minimize the amount of motor oil found in the harbor’s waters.

A state grant of $6,500 will fund the one-year exchange program, which would provide free motor oil absorbent pads to boaters until April 30, 2016.

“The use of an oil absorbent is a relatively easy and cost efficient way to help prevent oily bilge discharge,” a term of the MOU stated. “Absorbent Pad Exchange Programs have become common throughout Southern California harbors. The program offers individual boaters free clean oil absorbent pads and allows boaters to properly dispose of their saturated absorbent pads.”

Los Angeles County’s Department of Beaches and Harbors (DBH) initiated the exchange program with Marina del Rey boaters and residents, partnering with The Bay Foundation to provide the absorbent pads and reduce the amount of motor oil found in the harbor’s waters.

County officials hope providing the pads free of charge during the next 12 months will help improve Marina del Rey’s environment and water quality.

Section 133 of the state’s Harbors and Navigation Code prohibits oil discharge into navigable waters in a non-emergency situation.

According to the law: “It is unlawful and constitutes a misdemeanor for any person to discharge, or suffer the discharge of oil by any methods, means, or manner, into or upon the navigable waters of the state from any vessel using oil as fuel.”

The Changing Tide, a quarterly newsletter published by the California Clean Boating Network, also advised boaters to use absorbent pads to control discharged oil.

“Oil absorbents are the least expensive method boaters can use to control oily discharges,” a portion of the newsletter stated. “Oil absorbents (available at most marine supply stores) absorb oil while repelling water. Use oil absorbents for oil drips under the engine and in the bilge and to remove oil sheen on the water. These absorbents can also be used while fueling your boat or when filling a portable tank.”

Dana Point Marina Co. requires boat owners to use absorbent bilge pads to clean up fuel and oil.

A boater’s guide issued by the Port of San Diego also urges boaters to use absorbent pads to cleanup discharged oil or prevent spills.

Up in Seattle, Shilshole Bay Marina’s operators have the power to fine a boater who releases oily discharges from his or her bilge up to $32,500 per day, per violation. The marina urges boaters to use oil absorbent bilge pads or pillows within their boat’s bilge to soak up oil and fuel.

“Dispose of oil soaked absorbents when they are fully absorbed by wrapping in newspaper and then double wrapping in plastic and placing in the trash. The staff at the marina can also handle disposal of oil filters,” the marina’s best management practices stated.

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or CalRecycle, awarded The Bay Foundation a grant to provide the public with absorbent pads and partner with local governments and organizations to implement pad exchange programs.

Anchorage 47 in Marina del Rey will be responsible for promoting the exchange program and distributing pads to recreational boaters who requests one. The Bay Foundation will monitor the exchange program quarterly and, with the help of Anchorage 47, conduct a survey.

“It is the responsibility of both The Bay Foundation and Anchorage 47 to work collaboratively and review the program’s success throughout its duration and upon completion. The Bay Foundation will track the amount of oil absorbents distributed and recycled. Anchorage 47 will track boater comments and suggestions. Information will be exchanged during quarterly monitoring,” terms of the MOU stated.

According to county staff, The Bay Foundation is a non-profit partner of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and aims to “restore and enhance the Santa Monica Bay through actions and partnerships that improve water quality and conserve and rehabilitate natural resources.”

This is not the county’s first attempt to address water quality at Marina del Rey.

County officials have been working with the state’s Water Board to reduce copper discharge from boats 85 percent by 2025.

State officials approved an amended Water Quality Control Plan for the Los Angeles Region in September 2014 and established a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, to limit the amount of discharged copper is allowed to exist in the harbor. The state relied upon data claiming Marina del Rey was home to the worst copper pollution in California.

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