NYMPP: Section 1 - Mechanical Activities
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Used crankcase oil,
automatic transmission fluid, power steering fluid and hydraulic fluid are all considered used oil and can be mixed and managed together.

New York Sea Grant's
Marina Pollution Prevention Web Site

Section 1:
Mechanical Activities
- Oil Changes

Potential Environmental Impacts

Even small amounts of oil introduced into the marine environment can cause problems, especially if they persist. Although some oil that spills into the water evaporates, petroleum hydrocarbons can remain suspended in the water column, concentrate on the surface, or settle to the bottom. Because of the properties of oil, a cup of oil can spread a very thin sheen over more than an acre of calm water. An oil sheen can block necessary oxygen and light from moving through the surface of the water. According to the EPA, the hydrocarbons in oil harm juvenile fish, upset fish reproduction, and interfere with the growth and reproduction of bottom-dwelling organisms.

Best Management Practices

  • Do not mix used oil with anything else, such as chlorinated solvents, or expose oil to electrical contact cleaner or carburetor cleaner which can contaminate used oil while in an engine. Doing so will result in the need to perform a hazardous waste determination on the used oil mixture to establish whether or not the mixture must be managed as a hazardous waste.

  • Purchase a non-spill vacuum-type or dripless pump system ( for examples of equipment and suppliers, click here) for spill-proof oil changes, or to suction oily water from bilges.

  • Slip a plastic bag over used oil filters prior to removal to prevent drips.

  • Burn your used oil in a used oil fuel space heater (for a list of manufacturers, click here). This is also a cost saving measure that eliminates the cost of waste oil removal and can extend maintenance activities through the winter. For more information on burning used oil in space heaters, click here.

  • Recycle used oil filters. Puncture and drain them first. Collect the drained used oil and manage according to the regulations (click here for compliance requirements in New York). If you generate large numbers of filters, consider purchasing a filter crusher.

  • Install collection facilities for used oil and used oil filters and encourage boaters to use them, or direct boaters to their municipal used oil collection facility, usually at local transfer station. Post signs indicating how important it is that the used oil not be contaminated. Consider providing separate tanks for used oil, one for patrons to use and a secure tank for used oil collected by marina facility staff. For details on used oil storage compliance requirements, click here.

  • Store used oil in tanks or closed containers labeled "USED OIL." This is also a requirement under the used oil regulations.

  • Make sure your used oil storage tanks or drums have proper containment in case there is a leak or spill. For examples of available storage and containment products, click here.

  • Inspect your used oil storage tanks or drums on a regular basis for leaks or spills. This is a regulatory requirement.

  • Use large drum funnels or fill tubes when filling used oil drums.

  • If you have to service a boat or other water craft on-site, try to prevent spills. Do all servicing on impervious surface. If spills do occur, clean up oil spills with rags. After wringing out the saturated rag into the used oil drum, have the rags laundered with an industrial or commercial laundry service. See section entitled Rags (click here) for requirements.

  • Use oil absorbent materials to clean up small drips and spills. Sell oil absorbent pads in the ships store.

  • Educate customers and staff to not use soaps and detergents to clean up oily drips and spills.

  • Avoid pumping bilge water that is oily or has a visible sheen. Use oil absorbent materials or an oil/water separator to remove oil before pumping.

  • Consider purchasing a portable or stationary oil/water separator to clean bilge water (for examples, click here). These devices draw contaminated water from bilges, capture hydrocarbons in a filter and discharge clean water.

Regulatory Issues

  • Used oil, and any materials used to clean a spill, must be managed in accordance with the federal [40 CFR 279, click here] and state requirements (For New York State requirements, click here).

  • Storage of used oil is subject to all applicable federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) [40 CFR 112] click here. If you store oil in an above ground tank larger than 660 gallons or store more than a total of 1320 gallons of petroleum product (including used oil) in above ground tanks you may be require to have a federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure plan for you facility (for more information on the federal program for marinas, click here). For a sample SPCC plan, click here, pdf.

  • If there is a stormwater discharge from your facility and any used oil may come into contact with precipitation you may have to register for a General Permit for the Discharge of Storm Water Associated with Industrial Activity ("Storm Water General Permit"). For more information on storm water permitting in New York, click here.

  • Oily bilge water or any petroleum product that is discharged to the waters of the state must be reported to the state (In New York call the NYSDEC Oil Spill Hotline at (800) 457 7362)

  • If oily bilge water or any petroleum product that is discharged into navigable waters causes a visible sheen, it may also be necessary to report the discharge to the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802.

  • The use of dispersants, such as dishwashing soaps or detergents, on a fuel spill or sheen of any size on the surface water is prohibited in most circumstances [40 CFR 110.4] click here. Dispersants may only be used with permission from federal or state authorities, and only in rare instances.