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Environmental Information for New York and New Jersey Local Governments Regarding Abandoned Boats Destroyed or Damaged by Hurricane Sandy

Many New York and New Jersey communities are dealing with numerous abandoned, destroyed or heavily damaged boats in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  A key component of disaster debris management is reuse and recycling.  Due to the potentially large volumes of material produced in a natural disaster, recycling and reuse of damaged boats will lessen the burden on disposal facilities, cut costs and provide valuable material resources.  If conducted responsibly, boat recycling not only saves landfill space but also helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and conserves natural resources. 

This document addresses environmental issues that local communities should address in managing these boats. This document does not address issues concerning boat title, registration or insurance issues, nor matters concerning notification of boat owners.

Information on EPA’s response to the storm can be found at http://www.epa.gov/sandy/.  Additional information for communities managing natural disaster debris is available in EPA’s “Planning for Natural Disaster Debris” at http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/imr/cdm/pubs/pndd.pdf.

Environmental Factors

Boats damaged during natural disasters present numerous environmental issues.  Fluids such as gasoline, diesel fuel oil, transmission fluid, power trim/steering fluids, washer fluid, gear oil, battery acid, and solvents can contaminate waterways through direct releases from the boats or releases into gutters.  Other hazardous and solid wastes include mercury from switches, lamps, and electronic devices (navigation aids, CD players); lead from lead-acid batteries, battery cable ends; CFCs and other refrigerants; PCBs from foam rubber, carpets and plastic components; and metals such as aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, and zinc; and transmission and oil filters.  These environmental hazards could contaminate waterways and provide routes of exposure to humans through direct contact, drinking water, and the ambient air. Consequently, it is important that abandoned boats or other boats being discarded or disposed of be handled appropriately so as to avoid creating environmental harm.

Recycling, Salvage

Recycling is the preferred alternative to deal with discarded boats. There are established business facilities that handle discarded boats, ensure the proper management of hazardous materials contained in them, and conduct appropriate recycling activities.  At such facilities, the boats that have been deemed appropriate for scrap are dismantled and decontaminated as necessary. The boats should be managed in accordance with all applicable regulations and policies.  This includes safely removing and recovering gasoline fuel, diesel fuel, refrigerants, lubricating oils, mercury switches, lead acid batteries, brake and transmission fluids, antifreeze, tires, and electronics, such as radios.  This recovered material should be separated from the boats being readied for scrap and be reused or recycled, as appropriate.  The boats may then be sent to metal scrapping facilities where the items are fed into a metal shredder and magnets are used to recover remaining recyclable material.

For recycling options, an internet search for Long Island Recyclers, or New York Recyclers, or New Jersey Recyclers will locate companies capable of recycling boats for these areas. 

Companies that salvage boats can be found through an internet search and/or the phone book.

Alternatively, local marinas may offer, or provide contacts for salvage, disposal and/or recycling options and should be contacted.  Listings for local marinas may be found in the phone book or internet pages.


Another method sometimes used with old boats is donation of the boats to appropriate organizations. The City of New York maintains a website dealing with such donations and listing organizations that accept such boats. See http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/resources/prod_serv_auto_cars.shtml.  As indicated by the city, boats do not necessarily need to be in running order to be donated.

In addition, the American Red Cross has a Boat Donation and Resale Center serving NY, NJ and other states.  For information, call toll free 1-877-332-7677 or see

Note: This document contains information for local governments to aid in response to Hurricane Sandy with respect to boats.  The document is not a rule or regulation, and does not substitute for any law, rule or regulation or any other legally binding requirement.  The listing of information sources for boat donations or recycling is not an endorsement of any vendor or of any vendor's qualifications.

Local governments in New York and New Jersey should also consult any information made available by the State of New York or State of New Jersey, as appropriate, regarding the handling of abandoned boats.


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