Illegally disposing of even small amounts of used car oil may result in criminal charges and hefty fines, so think before you dump. The stakes are high because car oil can cause huge environmental damage: One quart of used motor oil can contaminate a quarter of a million gallons of water.
Definition of Illegal Dumping
The definition of illegal dumping depends on state law, but typically refers to dumping on property that is not licensed or permitted to receive waste; dumping in sewers or waterways without a license or permit; or permitting another person to dump on your land without having the appropriate license.
Federal Laws Against Dumping car oil
Several federal laws protect the environment from dumping car oil. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act protects communities and resource conservation and applies to large volumes of hazardous waste, while the Clean Water Act rules that any person who negligently or knowingly dumps oil (or another hazardous substance) into a body of water in the United States may face jail time and heavy fines.
State Laws Against Dumping car oil
If you are found guilty of illegally dumping car oil, you may be sent to jail, fined, put on probation or ordered to do community service. You may also have to pay for any damage caused by your illegal dumping and clean up and/or repair property damaged by your illegal dumping. The consequences vary greatly depending on the circumstances.
Depending on the state, illegal dumping can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Relevant factors are the type of waste and whether it is hazardous, the amount of waste and whether the dumper has committed prior offenses. If you dump hazardous waste or large quantities of waste, or are a repeat offender, a felony charge is more likely.
For example, Texas state law imposes a fine for dumping oil of between $1,000 and $50,000 and up to five years of imprisonment for each day the violation has occurred. Illegally dumping car oil in New York City results in a fine between $1,500 and $20,000. Connecticut state law imposes a fine of $219 for dumping anything larger than one cubic foot and if you are caught using a vehicle to dump, it will be confiscated, you will pay a fine and you may also be arrested. You can also be liable for clean-up costs and fined up to $25,000 per day.
Recycling car oil
To protect the environment and avoid criminal charge, recycle all used car oil in the right way. Recycled used car oil is cleaned and can be reused as a fuel oil, with one gallon of used oil providing one gallon of fuel oil. You can take it to an oil change facility or a household waste facility. Call the facility first to ensure it accepts containers of used oil. Your local quick lube service center may take used motor oil for recycling. Alternatively, contact Earth 911, a network of local environmental programs in the United States and parts of Canada.
Illegally dumping car oil comes with serious consequences, including incarceration, fines and community service.
- Mobil: Used motor oil recycling
- Keep Midland Beautiful: Environmental Crime
- The New York City Department of Sanitation: A Summary of Sanitation Rules and Regulations
- EPA: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Overview
- EPA: Criminal Provisions of the Clean Water Act
- State of Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection: Help Put an End to Illegal Dumping
Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.