When shaky-handed marina attendants spilled boat gas, “it used to drive me crazy,” admits Tom Fulcher. “Anytime you get hydrocarbons in water, it’s not a good thing.” But rather than fume over spilled fuel, Fulcher and fellow members of Saskatchewan’s Last Mountain Lake Stewardship Group decided to take action. Aided by a provincial grant for water-quality testing—and with the help of Universal Remediation, a U.S.-based manufacturer of materials to capture oil—they equipped local marinas with kits to recover spilled fuel, supplied boaters with BioSoks to soak up fuel in bilge water, and handed out jars of oil-absorbing powder to folks who fuel their boats at the cottage.
A momentary slip between the spout and the outboard may seem like a small thing, but minor spills contribute major amounts of petroleum to the environment. When The Royal Society of Canada gathered stats on the sources of oil in North America’s marine waters, almost a third of the oil came from spills on land and in inland waters. Spills from oil extraction and shipping contributed only about 4.5 per cent of the total.
“I don’t have empirical data to say yes, it’s made a difference,” Fulcher says of the Last Mountain Lake program. But he cites a number of examples where the kits have been used, including a 20-gallon spill at a marina. “Environmentally, does that make a difference? Absolutely.”
This article was originally published in the 2016 Summer issue of Cottage Life.