Sunken boats are polluting Tampa Bay waters

Taxpayers paying for irresponsible boat owners
Posted at 6:39 PM, Sep 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-06 18:39:53-04

On the blue waters of Tampa Bay, lies a watery graveyard.

“It's derelict that's our definition of derelict right there,” says Officer Michael Robertson with the St. Petersburg Police Marine Unit as he points to a sunken boat that has been rotting in the water for years.

We brought our cameras along with the Marine Unit as they trolled the waters near Tierra Verde. We spotted several boats left behind, rotting, and wasting away.

“People are buying these boats with dreams of fixing them one day and don't have the financial resources to do so,” says Officer Robertson.

The St. Peterburg Police Marine Unit tracks down these abandoned dreams, and then tries to tack down the owners, who can be out of state or intentionally hard to reach.

"All these boats have oil stored on board that sinks that stuff is going to leak and get in the water," points out Officer Robertson as he steers the Marine Unit Boat toward a vessel that's been a chronic problem. It's the classic example of why it takes years to get these boats out of the water.

“This boat is owned by a local gentlemen, one of our chronic offenders over the years. We give him a notice and he does the bare minimum to keep it in compliance,” says Officer Robertson acknowledging this kind of game is part of the reason it takes so long to fix the problem.

Then we came up on a boat  that nearly went completely under water last week as Hurricane Hermine was whipping across Tampa Bay. A local boater they call "Sinker" saved the boat from going under.

"I took a battery over there and hooked a pump to it and dropped it down, must have had 2500 gallons of water on it."

Sometimes it "take a village" to raise a boat from the dead. Though local authorities would be quick to tell you boat owners should be more responsible and the state laws should hold them accountable.

“The biggest thing is the state should look at legislation that prevent this haphazard storage of boats,” suggests Officer Robertson.

But even if the law is clarified it doesn't appear the tedious work of getting these boats out of the water is going away anytime soon, with the burden falling on the taxpayers.