Waste Oil Can Have Devastating Effects on your Community

Waste Oil Can Have Devastating Effects on your Community

Posted October 25, 2022

“Uh oh!” Your stomach sinks as the check engine light on your dashboard lights up with that dreaded amber glow. This feeling quickly fades as you realize that it’s just time to get another oil change. If you choose to change your own oil, it’s important for you to understand how to properly dispose of the waste oil. 

I am a Massachusetts Maritime Academy [summer 2021] intern with the Buzzards Bay Stormwater Collaborative. As part of our work with the Collaborative, we investigate, map, and test water quality at storm pipes, storm drains, and manholes throughout the region. Our work helps detect pollution sources in Buzzards Bay. The information we collect is used by towns to ensure that communities can safely enjoy summer activities.  

As you might know, oil and water don’t mix. Oil is a pollutant when it flows into stormwater drains. When oil ends up in storm drains, it pollutes groundwater, streams, and rivers. Oil develops a film atop the surface of natural waters, blocking out the sunlight that plants and wildlife need to live. Used motor oil contains heavy metals such as zinc, lead, and cadmium that have toxic effects on wildlife, vegetation, surface water, and drinking water. Other leaked automotive fluids, including antifreeze, solvents, and gasoline are also harmful to the environment.  

The EPA estimates that American households improperly dump about 193 million gallons of used oil every year. In fact, one oil change gone wrong can pollute up to one million gallons of fresh water! 

Used motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty. Therefore, it can be recycled, cleaned, and used again.  Simply return the used oil and antifreeze to a local service station or the auto part store where you purchased it. 

There are plenty of preventative measures that community members can take to keep local beaches healthy and open all summer long. To learn about more ways to benefit your community and protect against stormwater pollution, visit https://stormwater.buzzardsbay.org/ and remember to check for leaks, repair your car, and dispose of motor wastes properly!  


Written by Nathan Remillard, MMA Intern (July 2021)

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