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Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

BBAC Boat Bilge Sock Announcement

Boaters: Use a Bilge Sock

If you have a bilge in your boat, you should stick a sock in it. A bilge sock that is.

Chronic discharges of oil and petroleum products from boats are a significant problem in Buzzards Bay. Placing oil absorbing materials in your bilge can reduce these discharges to the environment. It is especially important that boats with inboard engines use bilge socks because these bilge compartments are most likely to accumulate oil and gasoline.

In 2000, the Buzzards Bay Action Committee initiated a program to hand out free bilge socks to Buzzards Bay boaters. Below is the press release about the initiative. In the panel to the right is the report that describes how bilge socks were tested for the program. We have kept this information posted for historical reasons.

April 2000: BBAC announces support of Bilge Sock Program

Contact: Mr. Leonard Gonsalves 508-999-1131

Buzzards Bay Action Committee to provide free 'bilge socks' to Buzzards Bay Boaters

Bilge sock testing photo.

Read the Bilge Sock Evaluation Report
which was used as the basis for selecting a vendor.
Press Release Date: April 13, 2000

The Buzzards Bay Action Committee announced today that it would provide free oil absorbent "bilge socks" to all recreational boaters in Buzzards Bay with bilge compartments. The bilge socks will be purchased as part of a $54,300 grant that the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management awarded to the Buzzards Bay Action Committee, which is a non-profit organization composed of municipal officials from around Buzzards Bay . The Action Committee developed the proposal in partnership with the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program.

The free bilge sock, which is a two foot long 3-inch diameter sausage-like object, is to be placed by boaters in the bilge compartment to capture leaking engine and crank case oil or small fuel spills. For most boaters, a single bilge sock should last an entire boating season. The bilge sock is expected to reduce the oil and fuel sheen sometimes evident on the water around mooring areas and marinas.

Last month, the Town of Dartmouth, which is administering the grant on behalf of area towns and the Action Committee, selected Lakefront Enterprises Inc. of North Hampton, New Hampshire to deliver 9,000 bilge socks. Although more than 12,000 boats may be docked or moored in Buzzards Bay during the summer, probably less than 9,000 of these boats have bilge compartments.

Lakefront Enterprises was one of eleven companies from across the US and Canada that submitted products in response to the Town of Dartmouth's request for bids. Altogether 20 different absorbent bilge socks were submitted to the Town of Dartmouth which conducted a series of tests to evaluate the products. Only three of the twenty devices passed all the tests, which included ability to absorb and retain 1.5 quarts of a diesel-engine oil mixture. All three passing products were composed of hydrocarbon absorbing polymers that combine with the oil forming an insoluble plastic-like material. Lakefront, whose sock contained a material called "Enviro-bond", was selected because it submitted the lowest bid products passing the test. The report on the bilge sock tests can be found at the Buzzards Bay NEP website buzzardsbay.org.

Harbor masters will be the primary source for the free bilge socks. A quantity of bilge socks will be given to the citizens group, the Buzzards Bay Coalition, which is also a partner in the grant. The Coalition will hand out socks from their Baykeeper vessel which will be operational this summer. The Harbormasters will also maintain special disposal barrels for the bilge socks. The grant to the Action Committee includes funds for the disposal of used bilge socks, which can be disposed of at conventional waste to energy facilities like SEMASS.

Len Gonsalves, Executive Director of the Action Committee, who has headed up this initiative said, "This grant award has been very well received by the town's harbormasters and shellfish officers. We expect boaters to embrace the program as well, and we think they will be very happy with the product. Although we are supplying boaters with free bilge socks for a single season, once we educate the boating public as to the value of using hydrocarbon absorbing bilge socks, we expect that they will buy their own in future years." The retail cost for the selected type of bilge sock is estimated to be ten to fifteen dollars.

According to Mr. Gonsalves, the free bilge sock is part of a concerted effort by municipalities to address pollution inputs to Buzzards Bay including stormwater discharges and failed septic systems. He noted that area officials have been working on coordinating on oil spill response, and that the Buzzards Bay Action Committee has been promoting state legislation that would empower Buzzards Bay harbormasters to enforce state fueling regulations at marinas, and to also ensure that each marina have available to it oil containment boom should a fueling spill occur.