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Crews remove two large abandoned shrimp trawlers from Holden Beach

The cleanup process is like working with wet cardboard, so crews had to focus on preventing more debris from floating away
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 3:41 PM EST
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HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina coast is known as the graveyard of the Atlantic and while shipwrecks and sunken boats may be fascinating to look at, they can be bad for the environment.

Brunswick County has removed several abandoned boats this year, but two left to rot in the Intracoastal Waterway in Holden Beach are arguably the largest so far. Depending on who you ask, they may have been abandoned for 10 to 20 years.

The sheriff’s office teamed up with the North Carolina Coastal Federation for the removal. They started the task two weeks ago.

“This is part of a larger effort coast-wide to remove about 80 vessels total,” said coastal scientist Ted Wilgis. “At this point, they’re beyond salvage. They’re beyond repair.”

Both boats are 65 feet long and were already falling apart in the water. The sheriff’s office often got complaints about the debris, even a complaint about a fuel tank floating away from the wreckage.

“The derelict and abandoned boats have become a little bit of a problem,” says Emily Flax with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office. “The Marine Patrol Unit has been diligently working, trying to get those vessels removed for many reasons — mostly environmental concerns and safety concerns.”

The cleanup process is like working with wet cardboard, so crews had to focus on preventing more debris from floating away.

“One of the reasons we hired this company Moran Environmental Recovery and Mainstream Divers is they have a very good environmental track record,” said Wilgis. “They have to identify any pollution sources on the vessel to remove any gas, fuel, batteries, etc. They put a containment boom and that is this yellow boom here and that prevents debris at high tide from floating away.”

Wilgis says Brunswick County is serving as a good role model for other counties.

“Brunswick County has been a leader in addressing abandoned and derelict vessels,” said Wilgis. “They’ve both dedicated the resources with the marine patrol unit, the staff as well as with their ordinances. Other cities and local governments are looking to essentially copy those ideas.”

Contractors worked to remove those vessels for about a week, finishing up early last week and taking the debris to a landfill. Commissioners approved a landfill waiver for the disposal earlier this month, freeing up $8,000-$10,000 in fees that can be used to remove other vessels.

“You have a few people that are a little upset about seeing a staple in the community get torn apart, but they also understand the environmental side of it and they’re all happy about it,” said Sgt. Jake Zaludek with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol Unit. “We’ve got a lot of support out here.”

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