Crews continue to mitigate pollution threats from vessels displaced by Hurricane Irma

Response crews work to remove a submerged vessel in Boot Key Harbor, Fla., Oct. 16, 2017. Response crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency are managing vessel removal operations throughout Florida in response to Hurricane Irma with a priority on vessels leaking fuel or hazardous materials. FEMA photo by J.T. Blatty.

Response crews work to remove a submerged vessel in Boot Key Harbor, Fla., Oct. 16, 2017. Response crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency are managing vessel removal operations throughout Florida in response to Hurricane Irma with a priority on vessels leaking fuel or hazardous materials. FEMA photo by J.T. Blatty.

MIAMI — Cleanup efforts of displaced vessels are progressing throughout Florida waterways six weeks after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys.

Nearly 230 people from state and federal agencies are involved in the disaster response.

The Unified Command for the response—officially titled Emergency Support Function 10 Florida consists of leaders from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

As the focus of the response is on safety of human life and environmental protection, vessel owners are encouraged to hire a professional salvage company in order to provide the safest method possible.

“Owners of displaced vessels are urged to wear closed-toe shoes and a life jacket if they’re considering going aboard to retrieve personal belongings,” said Cmdr. JoAnne Hanson, Coast Guard Incident Commander for ESF10 Florida. “It is also advised to have a safety observer present.”

Responders are prioritizing the removal of vessels based on environmental impact.

“We deploy trained Natural Resource Advisors to monitor operations in sensitive habitats or near wildlife that is threatened or endangered,” said Timyn Rice, the Environmental Unit Leader for ESF10 Florida. “We’ve consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, FWC, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish best management practices to avoid environmental impacts during removal operations.”

For more imagery and video of the Hurricane Irma response, please visit our Hurricane Irma Flickr page.

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