Marine Services: Decontaminating a Vessel
By Eric Chebator, Environmental Specialist
In a faulting economy pleasure boats and working vessels are being cast off into abandonment. Usually a money-pit for extra income, boats are now being found to be deserted to avoid disposal and storage fees. An estimated 12,000 dollars can amount for removal costs of just one sunken sailboat. California alone spends about 500,000 dollars each year removing orphaned recreational boats. These boats rotting away in boatyards or floating up onshore begin to leak oil and degrade hazardous bottom paint. Boat bottom coating usually contains Chromium, Lead, and Mercury among other hazardous chemicals which can lead to a dangerous environmental fate. Marine services such as proper decontamination, recycling, and decommissioning of these vessels can lead to a positive environmental impact. Costs for dismantling and recycling of vessels are usually only 15-20 dollars per foot. That is nothing compared to the estimated 1500 dollars for vessel abandonment fines! Best management practices for decommissioning and disposing of vessels include:
• Emptying the boat's fuel tanks for reuse or disposal of used gasoline as hazardous waste
• Remove and recycle/dispose of the following boat parts and fluid:
o Used oil
o Used antifreeze
o Boat engine (can be recycled as scrap metal)
o Any metals that can be recycled (aluminum, lead, zinc)
• Remove all mercury containing devices (i.e., some electronic equipment, bilge pump switches, old ship's barometers) and handle as hazardous waste.
• Decontaminate the hull with pressure washer and dispose of the wastewater as hazardous waste
Once the vessel is completely stripped it can then be cut into smaller pieces and disposed of in a local landfill. Proper permits and equipment is required for some of these decontamination procedures so be sure to contact a professional environmental services firm prior to disposal.