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California Boating 

A Course for Safe Boating


Chapter 2


Boating Law, Navigational Rules and Navigational Aids

Oil and Oily Waste

It is against the Federal Pollution Control Act to pump or discharge any

kind of oil into navigable waters. Even a small amount of oil accidentally

spilled can quickly spread over a large area. You are responsible for cleanup

costs and for correcting any environmental damage caused by your fuel

spill, under the California Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1990.

Oil or oily waste may not purposely be drained into the bilge of a boat.

All oily waste and other liquid pollutants must be kept in a container until

properly disposed.

One pint of oil can create a slick covering about one acre. Wind, tides,

temperature and the type of oil all affect how wide the slick spreads.

Packaging Material

It is illegal to discharge packaging material (called dunnage) in inland

waters and waters within 25 miles of shore. Packaging material includes

cardboard, Styrofoam, paper, plastic or any similar material.



If your boat is 26 feet or longer, it

must display a 5-inch by 8-inch oily

waste placard near the bilge pump

control station. The placard must list

the federal requirements.


Federal and state law makes it

illegal to discharge oil or oily waste

into or upon navigable waters, and

into zones next to the navigable

waters, if the discharge causes a

film or sheen upon, or discolors,

the surface of the water, or causes

a sludge or emulsion beneath the

surface of the water. Violators are

subject to substantial penalties.


Recreational boaters should call

1-800-OILS911 if they witness or

encounter an oil spill.