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Navigating new rules (The Providence Journal)
By Peter B. Lord - Journal Environment Writer - When a crew at Point Judith Marina power-washed the bottom of a 50-foot boat last week, they also turned on a pump that collected everything that washed off the boat’s blue bottom and ran it through a filter similar to what many people use on their kitchen faucets.

None of the wastewater seeped into nearby Point Judith Pond. After it was filtered, the remaining water was set aside for use on the next boat.

Around the corner, the marina owner put a padlock on his Dumpster. If boat owners want to sand and paint their boats, they have to use vacuums and tarps. And when they are done, they will have to pack up their dirty brushes, masking tape and pails and take them home for disposal.

Just to be sure the customers understand the many changes this year, each one is asked to sign a 22-point memo outlining stringent new work conditions. Each memo bears a warning that violators could be fined $200.

Across Rhode Island, the owners of tens of thousands of boats who are preparing for the spring ritual of sanding, painting and cleaning their boats at marinas are being surprised with letters and contracts advising them of strict new reforms to the pre-launching routines.

For years, the owners of some 300 marinas in Rhode Island have been upgrading their environmental and safety standards through voluntary compliance with best management practices trade manuals and state and federal regulatory programs.

But last year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in New England decided to launch inspections and penalties. The fines the agency announced last July did not make big news, but they seared through the boating industry. The EPA said it was seeking up to $32,500 per day for hazardous waste violations and up to $137,500 for Clean Water Act violations at Conanicut Marine Services on Jamestown. It reached agreement with New England Boatworks Inc. in Portsmouth on a $52,300 fine for high concentrations of lead in the soiland failure to develop plans for preventing stormwater pollution and fuel spills. It also imposed $3,000 penalties for Promet Marine Services in Providenceand Alden Yachts in Portsmouth, for failing to prepare oil spill prevention plans.

The EPA has worked for several years to improve environmental practices at marinas throughout New England, according to spokeswoman Sheryl Rosner. It launched the enforcement actions, she said, because without them, the new standards “wouldn’t have any teeth.”

“We can’t be everywhere all the time,” she said, “so we target some companies.”

About 44,000 boats are registered in Rhode Island and an estimated 20,000 additional boats are brought in from out of state. The EPA has used similar methods on other industries.

In the 1980s, the EPA threatened some of Rhode Island’s bigger electroplaters — sources of major heavy metal pollution of Narragansett Bay — with multimillion dollar fines. Some small companies closed down rather than invest in equipment to remove metals from their wastes. But several years later, the EPA said 90 percent of the industry was in compliance and the flow of metals into the Bay had decreased tenfold.

More recently, the EPA launched similar campaigns against auto body shops, university laboratories and public works garages.

Now it is focusing on marinas, which produce water pollutants ranging from the oil and gas in boat engines to biocides in anti-fouling paints used on boat hulls.

But there is one big difference. For marinas, it is not enough to train their own employees. Marinas can get into big trouble if their customers, the boat owners, mishandle paint, oil or sanding debris.

“There’s an interesting dynamic with marinas,” says Rosner. “They are ultimately responsible for the boat owners, who are their guests. I think it’s up to the marinas to communicate.”

They are trying to do just that.

Casey’s Boat Hauling and Storage in Newport recently mailed a notice to its customers and subcontractors listing 11 changes in wor
large photo
Jason Thompson paints the bottom of a boat the Point Judith Marina in South Kingstown, RI
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