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Tributary Times

Delaware's Clean Marina Initiative

Delaware Clean Marina logoBy David S. Chapman

The Delaware Clean Marina Initiative is a voluntary pollution prevention program, developed by a group of marine industry, regulatory, and other environmental advocacy representatives, intended to provide for safe and environmentally sound operation of marinas through pollution prevention and incorporation of good housekeeping procedures.

Marinas and recreational boating are increasingly popular uses of coastal areas.  Delaware has approximately 50,000 registered boats and approximately 100 marinas.  Because marinas are located at water's edge, there is a strong potential for adjacent waters to become contaminated with nonpoint source pollutants generated from activities that occur at marinas and boat yards.   Such activities include boat cleaning, fueling operations, marine head discharges and insufficient stormwater control.  Contaminants include dust from hull maintenance operations, solvents from engine repair shops, petroleum from careless fueling practices, sewage discharges from boats, and heavy metals from antifouling paints.  These pollutants may be deposited directly into waterways or they may be carried in by stormwater runoff from parking lots and hull maintenance and repair areas that drain into marina basins.  Scientists have found that these pollutants can reach harmful concentrations in the water column, sediments, and tissues of organisms inhabiting these areas.

Sewage pump-out unitRecreational boaters frequently contribute to the estuary pollution problem with improper disposal of litter, debris, and hazardous substances, improper use and maintenance of bottom paints, careless fueling and boat cleaning practices and others.  Increased awareness to those pollution-creating activities may greatly reduce the potential for these pollutant to affect the coastal waters.

Since its kick-off event in June 2003, the Delaware Clean Marina Program has successfully secured the pledges of thirteen Delaware marinas to become certified Clean Marinas.

The Delaware Clean Marina Program seeks to promote clean water and fresh air by providing technical advice and educational material to marina operators and boaters.  The goal is to encourage informed decision-making that leads to a reduction in boating-related pollution.

The Delaware Clean Marina Program provides advice on best management practices (BMPs) for marine facility operators and boaters on the following topics:

  • siting considerations for new or expanding marinas
  • marina design and maintenance
  • stormwater management
  • vessel maintenance and repair
  • petroleum control
  • sewage handling
  • waste containment and disposal
  • marina management
  • laws and regulations
  • boater education

Marinas that adopt a significant proportion of the best management practices suggested by the Delaware Clean Marina Program, and comply with all applicable State and Federal regulations will be recognized as Delaware Clean Marinas.

Fish cleaning regulatory advisory signThe Delaware Clean Marina Program is fashioned after similar successful pollution prevention environmental stewardship programs in Maryland and Virginia.  Program development started with the formation of an advisory committee in 2002 made up of marina owners/operators, marine dealers, boat yards, marina regulators (including the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control [DNREC] and the United States Coast Guard [USCG]), environmental NGOs (Center for the Inland Bays [CIB] and Sierra Club), University of Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, and recreational boating proponents (Delaware Marine Trades and BoatUS Foundation).

The advisory committee developed a comprehensive Delaware Clean Marina Guidebook, identifying BMPs for marinas to employ in cleaning up their operations and protecting the marine environment.  The guidebook also contains a listing and description of Delaware and federal regulations pertaining to marina operations, as well as other pertinent resource materials for marinas to use in conducting clean operations, including boater education materials.  The advisory committee also developed the Delaware Clean Marina Pledge Sheet, the Self-assessment Checklist for use in becoming certified as a Delaware Clean Marina, the laminated Boater Pollution Prevention Tip Card, and Oil Pollution Prevention Spill Kit for boaters.

The Delaware Clean Marina Program is modeled after the Maryland Clean Marina Program, which has been very successful in educating boaters and marina operators of the benefits of environmental stewardship by providing practical, proven Best Management Practices.  Benefits noted from other states’ experiences include new customers, better-informed and more environmentally responsible boaters, fewer petroleum and sewage spills, new revenue streams from recycled materials, and others.

The project results are being disseminated in a variety of ways as follows:

  • Boater education initiatives by the Delaware Clean Marina Executive Committee such as attendance at annual events/festivals including Delaware City Days, Earth Day Festival, Coast Day, Harvest Moon Festival, the State Fair, Rehoboth Beach Boat Show, and the Nanticoke River Fest, reaching a very large, diverse number of people including recreational boaters, marina owners, operators, staff and patrons and the general public
  • Clean Marina Workshops
  • Delaware Clean Marina web site listing pledged and certified marinas (under development)
  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Delaware Coastal Programs newsletter
  • Addressing community groups (e.g., Kiwanis, Citizen volunteers for water quality, Water Use Planning Committee, etc.)
  • Talk radio appearances


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