Did you know that gray water (soapy water) can be more damaging in many cases than black water containing human waste? The surfactants (compounds that lower surface tension) in soaps are deadly to fish, causing damage to the external mucus layer that protect fish from bacteria and parasites. Biodegradable soap doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for the environment. So how can we clean dishes on our boat without feeling guilty? When shopping for soap, look for vinegar-based cleaners that don’t contain phosphate, triclosan, or any anti-bacterial ingredients. Here are a few recommendations for eco-friendly soaps:  Puracy Natural Dish Soap, No Tox Life Vegan Dish Block, and Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap available through Amazon; ECOS Dishmate Dish Soap Free & Clear at Walmart; and Aspen Clean Natural Dishwasher Pods at Aspenclean.com are all good products for the home and for your boat.

Using the right products helps marine mammals further up the food chain, including orca, humpback, and minke whales found in our waters that depend on fish. So, stock up on those eco-friendly soaps and don’t forget to give whales their space to find food, choose their mates, and raise their young.

One of the biggest contributors of pollution comes from city wastewater treatment facilities that become overwhelmed during heavy periods of rain. Sewer systems, where storm water and sewage share the same pipes, send excess water and sewage into our waterways. In Seattle, a new 29-million-gallon storage tunnel is being built in Ballard to capture and store excess runoff until it can be pumped out to the West Point treatment plant. The 2.7-mile tunnel between Ballard and Wallingford is expected to come on-line in 2025. The new system will prevent 75 million gallons of sewage overflow from going into Lake Union, the Ship Canal, and Puget Sound. In the meantime, boaters can continue doing their part by adhering to the “no-discharge zone” and emptying their holding tanks at designated pumpout stations; go to pumpoutwashington.org for a map of locations and a link to download a free interactive app. Working together for practical solutions, we can all help protect our oceans and valuable marine life.