Thursday, August 11, 2016

In the recent issue of
Long Island Boating World magazine, Tim
covered legal issues that arise as a result of environmental law
and industrial hygiene law in the realm of boating. While we tend
to think in terms of boating law as the universe of concepts
related to marine salvage, boating accidents, purchase and sale
contracts, collision, allision, boating while intoxicated, and other
things along those lines, protecting our ecosystems has become
a topic that has become more prominent on the stage for
admiralty and maritime attorneys and law firms.

The article, Environmental Considerations Touch Many Aspects
of Boat Maintenance, appearing in this month's Long Island
Boating World, touches the maritime law issues that affect
recreational boaters, marinas, yacht clubs, boat yards, and other
facilities on the water when it comes to working on boats...

As a kid, I remember regularly seeing Pennant sloops, Dragon
one-designs, Lyman cruisers, and other wooden boats that we
don’t see much of anymore these days. Now, when we spot one
of these classics hidden away on an Upstate lake or in the
vintage boats section of marine classifieds, it can stir many
memories. They’re a connection to the past, speaking of an era
when it took tremendous effort and time to get a boat ready from
one season to the next. Although fiberglass construction,
aluminum spars, and maintenance-free composites have made
things simpler in this vein, working on boats of any kind in
marinas or boatyards today has become more complex in terms
of environmental and industrial hygiene considerations.

There are regulations and guidelines that address a wide range
of activities, from the capture of paint dust to the disposal of
toxic paints. But regardless of whether such regulations were in
place, most boaters I know have great respect for marine
ecosystems. After all, the fishes, mammals, birds, and other
wildlife that don’t have a say in the matter deserve not to have
their homes used as collection basins for toxic substances.

The hierarchy of laws and guidelines in this area is covered on
the federal level, with additional legislation at the state and
municipal levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
provides management actions for facilities that operate on the
water or at the water’s edge. While regulations and guidelines
can vary in scope and stringency from state to state, some of the
important issues commonly addressed across the board include
setting tarpaulins underneath boats to catch toxic materials that
could otherwise find their way into groundwater, using vacuum
equipped sanders to capture dust, exercising care in cleaning
paint brushes, and properly disposing of solvents and other
harmful substances.

Some marinas and boatyards also implement comprehensive in-
house policies, where vessel owners must follow certain rules
when it comes to the disposal of various solid and liquid waste
streams that include shrink wrap, zinc anodes, batteries,
solvents, waste oil, hydraulic fluids, and other materials. Some
facilities also require key employees to have familiarity with EPA
and OSHA regulations governing boat-related work.

We live in a world where we now know so much more about the
hazards of many different waste streams, from the household
level to the industrial level. Although people may not have given
as much thought of these issues in the days of wooden
runabouts with lapstrake hulls, there is greater awareness today
about the environmental impact of all our activities. In the era of
big fins and big chrome, the average driver wasn’t really thinking
in terms of “carbon footprints” or how catalytic converters and
hybrid cars could someday reduce air pollution.

On the household level, most people didn’t think of the mercury
thermometer in their kitchen drawers as a small reservoir of a
heavy metal that could pose health hazards. It was just
something sitting there, like those funny hand pump contraptions
in the tool shed for spraying clouds of pesticides with five and six-
syllable compounds no one without a degree in organic
chemistry could pronounce. But the more society learns about
the environmental, safety, or health consequences of certain
products or activities, whether in the realm of boat maintenance
at a marina or in the realm of lithium-ion batteries carried aboard
commercial airliners, the more our laws and day-to-day policies
will reflect the shift in that awareness.

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