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PA Boating Handbook
Littering & Pollution
Report pollution hotline, 855-FISH-KIL, 855-347-4545Plastic bags, discarded fishing line and other garbage kill fish, waterfowl and wildlife. Before throwing away six-pack rings, snip each circle with scissors. Once the rings are cut, no animal can get caught in them. In Pennsylvania, it is unlawful for any person to litter. If something blows out of your boat, go back and remove the object(s) from the water. Cigarette butts tossed in Pennsylvania waters is considered littering. Properly dispose of all litter and report water pollution.

If you see any source or indication of pollution, such as dead fish, call the PFBC’s Pollution Hotline at 1-855-FISH-KIL, or the Department of Environmental Protection at 1-800-541-2050, or the appropriate PFBC regional office. During after-hours, weekends and holidays, call the Department of Environmental Protection at 717-787-4343.


It is illegal to discharge sewage or other human waste, oil or trash into any state or federally controlled waters. Sewage carries disease and other pollutants harmful to people, aquatic plants and animals. Trash thrown into the water can injure swimmers, and wildlife alike. It also can plug engine cooling water intakes.

The Refuse Act prohibits throwing, discharging or depositing any refuse matter of any kind (including trash, garbage, oil and other liquid pollutants) into the waters of the United States.

Discharge of oil and other hazardous substances

  • Regulations issued under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act require all vessels with propulsion machinery to be able to retain oil mixtures on board.
  • Discharge of oil or hazardous substances is prohibited. The penalty for illegal discharge may be a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Dumping oil into the bilge of the vessel without means for proper disposal is also prohibited. Fuel spills can be removed using absorbent bilge pads.
  • Oil waste must be disposed at an approved reception facility. On recreational vessels, a bucket or bailer is adequate for temporary storage prior to disposing of the oil waste at an approved facility.
  • Notify the Coast Guard immediately if your vessel discharges oil or a hazardous substance into the water. Call toll-free 1-800-424-8802. Report the discharge’s location, color, source, substances, size and time observed. You also must call the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and report the discharge.
  • If boating on federally controlled waters and your vessel is 26 feet or longer, you must display a 5 x 8-inch placard made of durable material, fixed in a conspicuous place in the machinery spaces or at the bilge pump control station, stating the following:
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste upon or into any navigable waters of the U .S. The prohibition includes any discharge, which causes a film or discoloration of the surface of the water or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water. Violator’s are subject to substantial civil and/or criminal sanctions including fines and imprisonment.
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