Boat safety starts with maintenance

Warm, sunny weekends are on the way, which means Lake Tapps and the other lakes in the Bonney Lake area will see a deluge of boaters.

As the 2004 boating season gets under way, it's a good time to remember that safe boating includes conducting ongoing maintenance to prevent gas and oil leaks.

A boat may be loaded with life jackets, flares, food and a fire extinguisher, but what has been done to make sure the boat won't cause an oil spill?

Leaky gaskets and filters, along with sloppy fueling practices, can generate spills. And although the spills may be small, it can create an oily, murky mess that threatens fish and wildlife and fouls the water for swimming.

The Department of Ecology (DOE), the Parks and Recreation Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard are urging boaters to prevent spills by practicing good maintenance and fueling their boats carefully.

Boat motors should be tuned up and bilges checked for oil leaks before leaving the dock. An oil-absorbent roll in the bilge area will temporarily take care of any oil drips. These pads can be purchased at most marine supply stores.

When fueling, a handy, oil-absorbent pad can be used to catch any fuel before it spills into the water, and stopping the pump immediately will minimize the spill.

Another key to avoiding a spill is to be aware of current weather reports to make sure it's safe to be on the water. Overturned and submerged boats often leak fuel and oil into the water.

"Thorough knowledge of your boat's systems and operating procedures is an important part of preventing spills," said Dale Jensen, manager of DOE's spills program. "It is just as important as having life jackets, a fire extinguisher and flares on board."

If a spill occurs, it should be reported immediately to the National Response Center (800-424-8802) and Department of Ecology (800-OILS 911).

This is required and penalties can be issued if proper notifications are not made.

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