Coast Guard cleans up pollutants after 200+ boats sink in storm

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Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers James King and Gregory Livingston, members of the Gulf strike team, evaluate a displaced sailboat in New Bern, South Carolina, Sept. 30, 2018. The sailboat was displaced during Hurricane Florence. (Photo: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Russell Strathern)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Recovery efforts continue across the Cape Fear in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence and now the Coast Guard is changing their focus from search and rescue to pollution prevention.

Several boats were damaged during the hurricane, some winding up on land and other sinking. Many of those boats are full of fuel, batteries, and other pollutants.

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Lieutenant David Connor with the Coast Guard says the storm sank 200-300 vessels on the North Carolina coast.

The Coast Guard located most of these by helicopter and then sent teams out to put stickers on each boat with instructions for owners.

Any boat left behind will have all pollutants removed by the Coast Guard, which is also working with the EPA and the NC Wildlife Commission. That process will begin early next week.



“We literally just take what’s called a “vac-truck”, Lt. Connor said. “It’s a truck with a big vacuum cleaner on it and a tank. Drive up to it, stick it in the vessel, and take out the pollutants. So that will be starting early next week, and the other phase is the water-side removal. That involves working with a certified salvage company to get a barge with a crane on it.”

Lt. Connor says many of these boats will be left behind after they are cleaned out as long as they are not blocking any major waterways.