The Volusia County Environmental Management Department developed an innovative program to help clean Volusia's waterways, using devices called bilge socks.
A bilge sock looks like a long fabric tube, filled with absorbent material. There are other types and shapes of absorbent devices such as pads and pillows that are used in bilges as well. The absorbent sock is placed in the bilge compartment of a boat, where it soaks up gas and oil. These fuels are usually discharged into the marine environment through bilge pumping, fueling, and accidental spills.
It is all too common to see the sheen left by fuel on the water surface near boats and in marinas, and even though it may look like it is only a tiny amount coming from an individual boat, the cumulative impact to the environment can be very damaging. Oils and fuels have a tendency to accumulate in waterway bottom sediments and then concentrate in marine organisms.
Through a grant with the Volusia County Ponce de Leon Inlet and Port District, Volusia County Environmental Management provided free bilge socks to local marinas. Marinas then distributed them to their wet slip occupants. This was a one-time free gift, with the idea that once boaters see how effectively the socks soak up fuels and keep the water clean, they will opt to purchase these inexpensive devices on their own in the future. Some added bonuses were that the bilge sock the County provided also reduced vapors and off gassing (which can cause boat fires), and it can be disposed of easily.
In addition, marinas received educational literature and attractive signage to help raise awareness for protection of our waterways and aquatic life. Marine supply stores around the county also participated by displaying educational literature and sample bilge socks for their customers to inspect. So, if you own a boat and want to help protect our beautiful waterways check out your local marine supply store for information about fuel absorption devices.