CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston Police said people are leaving behind their boats and it’s creating issues in the water.

According to police, abandoned boats have been a problem for years. Since 2018, CPD removed 18 vessels, but more keep popping up. The issue mainly affects the Ashley River.

Officer Michael Merrill said the department is investigating four boats, and two others are set to be removed soon. He said taking vessels out of the water is a lengthy and expensive process.

Suspected boats are tagged and monitored for 45 days before they are deemed abandoned. After that, a letter is sent to possible owners and they have 30 days to respond. The next step would be to post an ad in the newspaper for 60 days for someone to show interest.

According to Merrill, people tend to ditch their boats because they can’t afford to maintain them. Many aren’t registered, making it hard to track down the owner.  

When it comes to boats above the surface, police said it can cost between $5,000 and $8,000. The removal of sunken boats can have a $20,000 price tag.

Officials told News 2, that abandoned boats create safety hazards and environmental issues.

“We have several boats that people squat on, they do drugs. We’ve had a lot of thefts out here, in the anchorage area especially, people stealing from different boats at various marinas,” explained Merrill.

According to Rudy Socha, the CEO of Wounded Nature Working Veterans, the boats have batteries, sewage, gasoline, lead, and a motor that can pollute the water. He said the fiberglass on older boats can break and sink into the oyster beds.

For the last few years, CPD and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources teamed up with Wounded Nature. The non-profit removes most of the boats for free, thanks to the help of donations.

Socha said the removal process depends on the type of equipment available to them. If a boat is sunken, he said they float it to the surface and relocate it to a spot where it can be pulled out. They then prepare the boat for a landfill by removing the motor, gas, sewer, and keel.

Police are urging community members to let them know if they can no longer care for a boat before leaving it.

If you see or know anything about an abandoned boat, police encourage you to call the following numbers:

Charleston County Dispatch: 843-743-7200

SCDNR: 800-922-5431

You can also email merrillm@charleston-sc.gov.

According to police, owners who are caught abandoning their boat can face a $1,000-$5,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.

To donate to Wounded Nature, click here.