New York Sea Grant's
Marina Pollution Prevention Web Site
Section 1: Mechanical Activities
Potential Environmental Impacts
Degreasers used to clean metal parts may be organic solvents (chlorinated
or non-chlorinated) or water-based cleaners. Organic solvents
usually contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can evaporate
quickly. Many VOCs combine with combustion emissions to form ground
level ozone, a major component of "smog." Ozone damages
lungs and degrades many materials. When solvents are released
and reach water, even in very small quantities, they may render
the water unfit for human use and uninhabitable for aquatic life.
Many organic solvents are also combustible, which may pose a fire
- Use water-based,
non-VOC cleaners that are less hazardous than solvent based degreasers
when possible. They are also less toxic and non-flammable. Don't
use a toxic or flammable organic solvent if you don't have to.
For more information on the different types of part cleaners,
- Try to use
less hazardous parts washing systems and products such as aqueous,
semi-aqueous, or low VOC cleaners. A number of companies provide
non hazardous or less hazardous parts washing products and
systems. For examples, click
- If using
VOC-based solvents is unavoidable, catch excess solvents in a
pan and reuse.
- Do not mix
or add other types of solvents to any degreaser.
- Never discard
any degreasing solvent into sinks, floor drains or onto the ground.
It will ultimately find its way to local waters, and as little
as a thimble full may render thousands of gallons of water uninhabitable
for aquatic life or unfit for human consumption. You may be held
responsible for remediation costs.
- Wipe off
parts with a rag or wire brush before soaking in parts washer.
- If your parts
washer doesn't have a drip shelf inside the tub, use a drip tray
to drain cleaned parts.
- Turn off
solvent stream and cover the unit when not in use. If your unit
is equipped with a heating element, turn it off at the end of
- Store solvent
waste in closed containers.
- Do not fill
cleaning machine above fill line.
- Clean up
- Do not agitate
solvent to the point of splashing.
- A hazardous
waste determination must be conducted to establish whether or
not disposal of waste solvents and parts washer solutions is subject
to hazardous waste regulations [40 CFR 262.11] click
here. For more information on New York's Hazardous
Waste Regulations and storage requirements, click here, pdf.
A hazardous waste determination must also be conducted on any
materials used to clean a spill.
- If there
is a stormwater discharge from your facility and you perform any
outdoor vessel maintenance or repair, including parts cleaning
and degreasing, you may have to register for a General Permit
for the Discharge of Storm Water Associated with Industrial Activity
("Storm Water General Permit"). For more information
on stormwater permitting in New York, click
- Manage soiled
rags as described in "Rags" , click