Get Clean

Lead Line — March 2004
By Richard Thiel

Get Clean
Look for the Clean Marina flag when you’re cruising.
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Depending on your political persuasion, this is either the best or the worst of times, environmentally speaking. The Bush administration has relaxed environmental legislation to the benefit of business and industry; the question is whether these changes will improve or degrade the environment. Whichever you believe, one thing should be clear: The locus for clean air and water policy has moved from the national level to state and local governments and, ultimately, to individuals.

That means that people who care about the environment must assume more responsibility for protecting it, including changing the way they live. Boaters, who particularly benefit from clean oceans, lakes, and waterways, will need to be more diligent in ensuring our favorite pastime has minimal impact on the environment we care about. We can no longer leave it to Washington.

Most of you know how to do that, like properly disposing of paint and oil, using pump-out stations, and ensuring engines operate at peak efficiency. But there’s also a government-endorsed, grass-roots program that’s voluntary and cheap—and works.

It’s called Clean Marina, and it’s loosely administered by NOAA and the EPA, as part of the Coastal Nonpoint Control Program, which aims to prevent or reduce pollution runoff. NOAA provides funding (about $700,000 in 2002, according to NOAA) to states that wish to start their own programs, but federal involvement beyond that is minimal. In fact, Clean Marina started in February 1999 as a joint project between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and marina owners. Today eight states and the Tennessee Valley Authority are involved, and while a precise number of participating marinas isn’t available, it’s estimated that about ten percent of participating states’ public and private marinas are certified, with another 20 percent pledging to seek certification this year. Clean Marina guidelines are set by each state and concentrate on the handling and storage of hazardous materials, spill response, and minimizing the release of maintenance byproducts such as dust and metal shavings.

Becoming a Clean Marina is simple. A marina or boatyard contacts the appropriate state agency for guidelines, pledges to follow them, conducts a self-assessment, makes appropriate changes, and calls the state for a formal evaluation. Once it passes, it can display the Clean Marina flag and signage and the Clean Marina logo on its letterhead. It’s usually required to annually confirm in writing that it remains in compliance, and state inspectors may schedule periodic prearranged inspections.

Marina owners are enthusiastic about the program, some even contending that certification has boosted their bottom lines. But what does certification mean to you, beyond feeling that your marina is helping keep the environment clean? I visited two Clean Marina facilities in Connecticut, and even absent flags and logos, I immediately knew I was in superior facilities, the kind of place you want to be, whether you have a slip or are just overnighting. So if your marina or boatyard isn’t a Clean Marina, tell your manager about it. Details are available at And look for the Clean Marina flag when you’re cruising. It’s an easy and rewarding way to do your part.


This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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