Friday, April 28, 2006 - Last Updated: 7:17 AM
Marinas earn flag of honor
9 in state recognized for pollution control
BY CHRIS DICKON
The Post and Courier
Nine marinas across the state, including two in the Lowcountry, were
recognized Thursday as "Clean Marinas" for outstanding environmental
Officials hope this relatively new designation, which allows marina
owners to fly a "Clean Marina" flag and reap some financial benefits, will
spread across the state.
South Carolina has no full-time inspector to investigate marina
pollution, so officials with the state Department of Health and
Environmental Control said voluntary measures such as Clean Marinas can
offer state waterways vital protection from oil, gasoline, solvents and
Locally, the Charleston Harbor and City marinas have been recognized as
Clean Marinas. Charleston Harbor Manager Rand Pratt said the marina has
stepped up measures.
"The biggest thing is pollution control," he said. "And when you're
fueling boats in the water, you've always got the risk. So we've got
thousands of dollars' worth of absorbents and products that actually soak
fuel out of the water and even special diapers around the fueling nozzles."
Pratt said instead of relying on boaters to dump their wastewater tanks
at a dockside facility, the state's largest marina also has purchased a pump
boat that can empty the black water (sewage) tanks at any of the facility's
428 slips. He added that soon, every boat would likely be required to carry
a "bilge sock" to absorb oils and waste from bilge water.
"We also recycle all fuel filters, batteries and oil, and have special
containment procedures for all of that," he said.
Pratt and DHEC spokesman Dan Berger said that although compliance with
the project is voluntary, recreational and transient boaters look for Clean
Marina flags when choosing docking facilities. Clean Marinas are typically
able to charge higher slip fees and can receive federal financial assistance
for participating in the program.
"We're really hoping for a little bit of peer pressure from the Clean
Marinas," Berger said, leading other facilities to follow suit.
DHEC officials said voluntary compliance with clean water efforts is
crucial because South Carolina does not employ an inspector who can make
regular visits to the state's roughly 75 coastal and 75 inland marinas.
Berger added that adequately monitoring pollution is difficult at tidal or
river marinas where the water never stays still.
DHEC Assistant Water Bureau Chief Sally Knowles said marina operators are
required to meet extensive federal and state clean water criteria to obtain
a license, but that regulators largely rely on the public or on coastal
shellfish or beach water-quality monitoring officials to report spills or
illegal pollution activity.
Records of pollution violations are kept by local offices, but DHEC does
not keep records of individual offenses. Voluntary regulation efforts on the
part of marina operators is the key, she said.
"If marina owners are abiding by their permits, then I wouldn't expect
them to be causing any pollution problems," Knowles said. "But if we had
someone who could be a full-time marina inspector, it would be beneficial
because we do have to rely on trusting that the people who get the permits
are going to do the right thing. We've tried to do some regular monitoring
in the past, but it's a resource issue and, unfortunately, it hasn't been a
priority for us."
Coastal Conservation League Director Dana Beach praised the Clean Marinas
program but added that regulatory and citizen oversight were both key.
"Today, even massive cruise ships still dump their garbage into the
ocean, and these are multimillion-dollar operations," he said. "And so we
have to be realistic. The average boat owner is going to vary from being
extremely responsible to completely unconcerned about pollution. So it's not
good enough to have an entirely self-monitoring system."
Beach added that fines should be increased exponentially in the case of
nighttime dumping of oily bilge water or sewage. "If I might get fined only
$100 for dumping ? in the creek, it's a much easier decision to make to dump
than if it's going to cost me $10,000."
'Clean Marinas'On the Web
The nine recognized S.C. facilities:
-- Charleston Harbor Marina, Charleston
-- City Marina, Charleston
-- Beaufort's Downtown Marina, Beaufort
-- Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Hilton Head Island
-- Wexford Plantation Marina, Hilton Head Island
-- Osprey Marina, Myrtle Beach
-- Reserve Harbor Marina, Litchfield
-- Plum Branch Yacht Club, Lake Thurmond
-- River Hills Marina Club, Lake Wylie
ON THE WEB