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.  FEMA photo by J.T. Blatty.

MIAMI – Cleanup efforts and removal operations of displaced vessels are progressing throughout Florida waterways eight weeks after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys.

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

Currently, 1,643 displaced vessels have been removed from Florida waterways by both private owners and Unified Command response teams. Nearly 220 personnel from state and federal agencies are involved in the disaster response.

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

“Response crews are working closely with environmental and industry experts as we continue with the ongoing removal operations across the State of Florida,” said Cmdr. JoAnne Hanson, Coast Guard Incident Commander for ESF10 Florida. “It is important that these operations be properly managed so as to comply with regulations and minimize or prevent environmental impacts.”

Vessel owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessels in order to provide the safest removal method possible for the public and environment. Owners wishing to remove their own vessels are encouraged to visit the following website for guidelines and best practices http://myfwc.com/boating/vessel-hotline/removal.

Owners of displaced vessels who lack the resources to have their boat repaired, or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, may release ownership of their vessel through a waiver provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The waiver process can be initiated by contacting FWC through the Vessel Removal Hotline at 305-985-3744 and requesting to turn over a displaced vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership.

These updated figures represent a combination of displaced vessels removed from the water by ESF10 Florida and private owners. These numbers are subject to change as more vessels are identified and removed from the water.

The ESF 10 is the framework by which federal support is coordinated with state agencies in response to actual or potential oil spills or hazardous material releases. Partner agencies, including Florida Department of Environmental Protection, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, are contributing expertise and experience to the assessment and removal efforts.

The public is encouraged to call the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802 to report any pollution incidents.

Operators with the Vessel Removal Hotline can be reached at 305-985-3744.

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