RCR urges boat owners to fit bilge filters to stop inland waterways contamination

River Canal Rescue (RCR) is urging boat owners to take action to install bilge filters to stop the contamination of inland waterways through the accidental spilling of fuel and oil.

RCR estimates that more than 120,000 litres of fuel and oil make their way into the waterway system every year, contaminating 120 billion litres of water – the equivalent of the entire UK daily water supply.

RCR operations director, Jay Forman, said, “Boat owners with poorly-maintained bilge areas, no filters or a facility to discharge contaminants into a holding tank are adding to, rather than addressing, the pollution issues.

“We cannot sit back and do nothing; collectively boaters’ yearly bilge pump contents pollute a staggering amount of water, contaminating the environment and species and plants it supports, yet this could easily be prevented with a bilge filter.”

Twenty four ‘near misses’ each month

From March 2018 to March 2019 RCR logged 292 call-outs as ‘environmental near-misses’ or pollution incidents. These were typically fuel, oil, coolant and antifreeze leaks into bilges caused by cracked filter pipes, spills into the engine bay, battery acid spillage and contaminated bilges.

When responding to call-outs, RCR engineers failed to find any boats with bilge pump filters fitted and similarly, the Boat Safety Scheme reports its examiners ‘rarely find’ a filter, estimating 1% or less of boats use one to prevent harmful hydrocarbons entering the waterways.

Earlier this year RCR developed Bilgeaway, a product it describes as ‘the world’s first truly environmentally-friendly bilge discharge filter’. Bilgeaway extracts contaminants from bilge water, renders them non-reactive and leaves the contents in a cartridge which can be disposed of and the housing re-used.

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