It's a Dirty Business -
December 4, 2003
We've said it before, many times: nothing is ever as simple as it first appears. For many problems, there are no clean solutions. Literally.
Last week's entry ("Dinghy Do's And Don'ts") celebrated our success at getting our recalcitrant dinghy engine operational again. After four days of rowing to and from shore, and having paid for our outboard mechanic's kids' college tuition, we ended up with a rebuilt carburettor and a mostly mollified motor. That turned out to be the easy part. Before admitting defeat and taking the engine into the shop, David had drained it's fuel system and integral tank. He had dumped the stale gasoline into a plastic jerry jug that already contained some old kerosene and a few other dubious substances. Now he had to dispose of the dirty dregs. That proved to be the hard part.
Yesterday David checked out the dumpsters on shore at the municipal marina. A very large sign warned against leaving any toxic waste, suggesting offenders might be shot on sight, or at the very least, fined and banned from the marina. Sufficiently cowed, David slunk down to the marina office. He asked Kelvin Taylor, the lead wharfinger, what facilities the marina had for the disposal of hazardous waste. "We'll take your used engine oil for a dollar a gallon. We'll waive the fee if you buy your new oil from us," Kelvin replied. "We have to charge," he continued, "because it costs us to get rid of it. We have a 150 gallon tank for waste oil. Ten years ago, an oil recycler would PAY us $35 to empty it. Now he CHARGES us $50 to do the same."
"Why is that?" David asked innocently.
That got Kelvin talking non-stop for the next 15 minutes. Waste disposal is one of his favourite topics. "Environmental regulations are much stricter these days. Now the fellow comes down with a chemistry set and tests the oil before pumping it out. If it's contaminated, he charges us $1000 to deal with it."
"Contaminated?" David gulped.
"Waste fuel is a big problem," Kelvin explained. "No one will take it. The fire department used to be happy to collect it and set it ablaze out by the airport for fire-fighting practice. Now that's prohibited by the EPA."
David's heart sank. "What are boaters supposed to do with dirty fuel then?"
Kelvin wasn't very sympathetic. "That's just bad planning. The boating public has to become more responsible and minimize the amount of waste it produces." He paused. "I'm not recommending this, but I hear that some boaters just leave the cap off a fuel container and let the problem take care of itself."
David mused, "I don't think Rich would appreciate that strategy. And neither would Barclay." Rich is on the sailboat "Tardis", which is rafted next to "Little Gidding" in the marina's mooring field. Rich often enjoys having a cigar in his cockpit. Barclay is his high-strung terrier who doesn't like loud noises. He yelps pitifully whenever Rich runs the engine to charge batteries. Barclay would definitely not like the high decibel consequences of Rich lighting up next to an open gasoline container.
After thanking Kelvin for his advice, David phoned the Indian River County recycling department. He asked Jerry Driskell, the cheerful supervisor, what we could do with our dirty gasoline. Mr. Driskell was very enthusiastic. He explained how the county has five recycling locations, euphemistically called "convenience centres", which accept household hazardous waste at no charge. Boats apparently qualify as houses. David inquired as to the convenience centre nearest the marina.
"That would be our Gifford centre," Mr. Driskell replied. "You cross the Merrill Barber bridge next to the marina and then turn right and go up to 41st street. Turn left and keep going. You'll cross US highway 1 and Old Dixie highway and the railway tracks. You'll think you're going through a rough part of town, but don't worry, you'll be okay. Keep on past the sheriff's department and the county jail to the stop light. After the light, you'll pass the UPS station and the humane society and then there'll be our driveway on the left."
"Are you in the same time zone?" David asked.
Mr. Driskell laughed, "It's really not that far. But don't come today. We're closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And you'll have to leave the container behind."
David got up early this morning to go dumpster diving before the garbage collectors arrived at the marina. He found an empty gallon wine jug and filled it with our vintage brew. He put the glass jug in a discarded beer carton and strapped it to the rear of his bicycle. Eileen asked him why he was also filling the saddle bags with provisions. "I might be gone for a while," he said glumly.
"Maybe you should take the EPIRB in case you get lost," Eileen suggested. "You know what a bad sense of direction you have."
David glared at her and set off with the unwanted cargo. After half an hour of brisk pedalling he arrived unscathed at the Gifford convenience centre. It was bustling with activity. The recycling worker, Dave, turned out to be a strong environmental proponent. When he learned that we live on a boat, he told David of his ideas for protecting the Florida coral reefs. He was very pleased David had brought him the dirty gas. As he placed the jug in a special yellow bin, he commented, "I've read about some boaters just dumping this stuff at sea. Imagine that! It kills the reefs."
David shook his head. "They should be shot," he said righteously.