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Squatters Living Aboard Abandoned Boats Are Fouling Florida’s Water

via NBC
This article was originally published at StateOfUnion.org. Publications approved for syndication have permission to republish this article, such as Microsoft News, Yahoo News, Newsbreak, UltimateNewswire and others. To learn more about syndication opportunities, visit About Us.

Vagrants in South Florida are increasingly occupying derelict boats along the coast, a new phenomenon that has emerged in the last year.

The Martin County Sheriff’s Office has been addressing the issue, with a focus on removing or bringing the derelict boats up to code.

The area’s high boating activity has led to an increase in abandoned, inoperable vessels, which are now being inhabited by vagrants, posing environmental and safety concerns.

“This is a 2023 epiphany. We have had homeless, vagrant population here in Martin County for quite some time. Not a large one, but we have had people that are transient moving through. And we’ve had the derelict vessel issue. These were two separate problems,” Chief Deputy John Budensiek said.

“But as our marine deputy started citing, tagging and removing these vessels, they learned last year that a lot of these vessels were inhabited by vagrants,” he said.

The sheriff’s office is actively working to identify and remove these boats, collaborating with state agencies and the Coast Guard to ensure the waterways remain safe and clean.

“One of the byproducts of having a lot of vessels in our area, is some of these vessels tend to get rundown hard and become inoperable. And because they become an operable, some of these owners will abandon them or they’ll sell them to someone who doesn’t re-register the vessel. Those people in turn, stay on these boats or run these vessels until they are completely unusable. And they sink or they leak fuel, if they have the capacity to carry fuel, or they leak human waste and they become a real danger to us environmentally,” he said.

“Unfortunately with South Florida, vagrants come from the northern communities where it’s cold this time of year down here.”

“The vagrant population as a whole seems to be transient. Unfortunately with South Florida, vagrants come from the northern communities where it’s cold this time of year down here. We get an influx of them and we do our best, but they have rights … to do certain things. So we want them to succeed, but we don’t want them to come and ruin the quality of life for people that are working hard and paying taxes and trying to keep, especially in this case, our waterways safe and clean,” he said.

“It’s hard to differentiate. There’s a lot of vessels that are functional that people living on, that you and I may not stay on, but they are inhabitable,” Budensiek said.

“We’re going around and testing these boats that are anchored to just outside of our channels, and testing means going and making sure that their lighting functions, so you can see them at night if you’re trying to move through our waterways,” he said.

“Really what’s of concern us environmentally is most of them don’t have functional bathrooms. So what we find happening here in our county, we have these vagrants that are squatting on the boats, and using the facilities. And the facilities within the boat are just draining right into our estuaries, right into our ocean and our rivers here,” he said.

“Environmentally, it’s a disgusting problem that we’re dealing with, and we are doing everything we can to identify who these people are, which vessels they are, cite them, remove them and get them off of our beaches, off of our shores,” Budensiek said.

“They’re also testing them with dye … They’re running this dye through the toilet system in the boats. And if the dye comes out in the water, then we know that that boat is not sound and is in fact leaking sewage into our estuary,” he said.

The cost of removing these derelict boats is covered by a portion of boater registration fees, aimed at maintaining the appeal of the waterways for residents and visitors.

“They use our local ordinances to combat the issue that we’re having. We don’t do it alone. We do it with our state resources, DEP, the Department of Environmental protection, they help us with some of these environmental issues. The Coast Guard is always available to come beside us. So we’re working locally, on the state level, and then on the federal level to combat this issue and make our community a safer and more beautiful place to boat,” he said.

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This article was originally published at StateOfUnion.org. Publications approved for syndication have permission to republish this article, such as Microsoft News, Yahoo News, Newsbreak,...

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