photo from the blog "Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases"

by Deborah Bach from

A rash of sunken boats and oil spills over the past two months prompted the Washington state Department of Ecology to remind boaters to properly maintain their vessels.

Winter weather, unrepaired leaks and other poor maintenance can cause boats to sink and trigger fuel spills that can harm marine life. In the last two months, Ecology received more than 45 reports of oil spills and sheens involving recreational boats and commercial fishing vessels. Most were a result of inattention as the boating season wound down, according to Ecology.

From Sept. 13 through Nov. 16, nine boats sank in Puget Sound from Vashon Island in King County to Point Roberts Marina in Whatcom County. Additionally, eight spills and 29 sheens were reported.

“All spills matter, regardless of size,” Ecology Spills Program Manager Dale Jensen said. “A single small spill might seem inconsequential, but cumulatively they can cause significant damage to our environment.

“Petroleum products are toxic and contain organic chemicals and heavy metals. Gasoline, for example, has more than 100 hydrocarbon compounds that harm fish larvae, shellfish and other marine organisms.”

Many spills happen during fueling or from contaminated bilge pumps. Winds, rain, ice and snow can easily flood or sink boats, causing serious spills.

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