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Grey water tanks and pollution

I am still new to narrowboating and until recently thought that grey water went into a tank which is pumped out at marinas. However I now understand that on most boats it goes straight into the canal or river. Do some boats have tanks and others not? Do you have any recommendations for good non-polluting cleaning products for use around a narrowboat?

Asked by: Julian Morrison-Little  | 11.35am, Friday 13 April

WW says:

In the UK, and most of Europe, you are right in that grey water (water from showers, wash basins and sinks) does indeed go into the canal. Although not ideal, the biological load imposed on the ecosystem is not too high, unless you get large numbers of boats together... Also, the worst offender (after oily bilge water and sewage- neither of which should be discharged) is detergent from washing machines/laundry: most boaters do not realise how difficult these are to cope with in the aquatic environment.
Very few boats have grey water systems fitted- and virtually no narrowboats; primarily as people don't see it as an issue, but also the space requirements (and how the systems need to be used) are not considered important.
You can fit a grey water treatment system, though these are only found in USA boats and some Dutch boats currently, where the grey water is filtered and through biological action, broken down to less harmful substances(nitrates, for instance, rather than ammonia/nitrite) before pbeing pumped overboard.
There are also very few places on the canal network that would be capable of discharging grey water- though some river marinas are starting to fit them.
For cleaning, products like Ecover (www.ecover.com)work well and degrade very quickly in water. They also produce boat cleaning products, as well as their more usual domestic range of detergents, shower gels, etc. They also have good evidence about the course, and decomposition, of their products, unlike some "green" products.

Mark Langley  | 12.34PM, Friday 13 April

Readers say:

Universal Stone can be used on all the hard surfaces around a boat, outside and inside. It shifts even stubborn dirt and leaves an even shine. It's fully biodegradeable, contains no phosphates and is very compact, so it takes up very little space.

Andrew Whiteman  | 4.10PM, Wednesday 18 April

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