Honolulu Star Bulletin 03/15/03)
By Ray Pendleton
It should come as no big surprise that we're all involved in the pollution of our waterways.
It makes no difference if we are visitors or residents, teenagers or octogenarians, we're all a part of the problem.
All it takes is one tropical gully washer to be able to observe how quickly the storm drain runoff from our streets can pour tons of floating refuse into waterways like the Ala Wai canal.
But in general, this type of pollution, other than occasionally being a hazard to navigation, is more of a visual blight than a health hazard.
The larger problem is from the runoff we can't see, like pesticides, herbicides, petroleum products and various bacteria.
If it's in our backyards, streets, or highways, you can bet it eventually gets washed into our harbors and bays and, in turn, into our offshore waters.
I would doubt there are many of us who can say we haven't contributed to this process in some way, either by driving a car, riding a bus, or using a spray for bugs or weeds.
Yet, for most people, the problem is largely academic. The effects of the pollution doesn't often confront them directly.
On the other hand, there are some in our community who should be very aware of such pollution: swimmers, surfers, divers, paddlers and recreational boaters.
Of these groups, only recreational boaters are likely to not only observe such pollution, but have the greatest potential to contribute to it as well.
For this reason, about four years ago, the state's departments of Health, and Land and Natural Resources collaborated with the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant Program to produce a booklet called "Managing Boat Wastes -- A Guide for Hawaii Boaters."
This guide gives boaters a number of ideas on how they can enjoy and maintain their vessels, while at the same time, have the least harmful impact on the environment around them.
The booklet begins by offering a list of safe alternatives to the sometimes toxic commercial boat cleaning products on the market.
Next, it discusses the inherent problems with automatic bilge pumps and how to avoid the accidental discharge of oil-polluted water.
The booklet then describes federal and local standards for heads and holding tanks and the legal methods for disposing of their sewage. A section follows dealing with another disposal issue -- lead-acid batteries -- since both lead and acid are toxic.
But the storage and use of fuel on board a boat has the most potential for pollution, the guide presents three pages of suggestions on how to minimize the impact. The ideas range from fuel economy, to safe refueling practices, to who to call in case of a spill.
Another topic covered in the booklet is the proper use of paints, varnishes, oils, solvents and epoxies in the course of boat maintenance.
And as oil and oil filter disposal is also a part of boat maintenance, it too is covered.
Boaters trying to be part of the solution, rather than the problem, should get a copy of this guide.
It is available from the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation's Boating Registration office at 1151 Punchbowl St.
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