Abandoned boats and docks are littering the waters of one of Atlanta's favorite playgrounds: Lake Lanier.
But it's not just that they're ugly. They're dangerous. Sharp pieces of jagged metal drift away from the abandoned structures into the main lake, lying in wait for boats, tubers and skiers.
“You have derelict docks that are falling apart," said Joanna Cloud, Executive Director of Lake Lanier Association. "Big pieces of them are breaking off and getting in the water. Or you’ll just come across a sunken vessel that’s just leaking oil or battery acid and gasoline .“
Many of the docks or boats are ripped away from their moorings and sink or get beached elsewhere. Others are dumped by people who can no longer afford to maintain them.
The abandoned boats are not just dangerous and ugly. They're also magnets for criminal activity, attracting drugs and squatters.
“We had one vessel that we are convinced people were using drugs and dealing drugs from it," said Cloud. "We’ve have another vessel we highly suspect was being used as a meth lab.”
The problem is finding the owners.
"We don’t title vessels in our state. We register vessels in our state. We only title vehicles," explained Cloud. "Finding the rightful owner of these vessels is a big, big challenge"
If they can find an owner it's hard to force them to clean it up since the only criminal charges they would face is littering.
Just last month, someone saw a contractor dumping debris in the lake. Luckily, they got photos of it and, when asked, he came back and hauled the junk out of hte lake. But not before the debris started drifting into the main body of the lake and its thousands of boats and recreational users.
"You come across something like that when you’re waterskiing or jetskiing and you’ve got a big problem on your hands," explains Cloud.
In the past three years the Lake Lanier Association has cleaned up more than sixty derelict boats or docks. It's a costly project but one that makes Atlanta's favorite lake safe for all.
The cost of haul away a sunken boat could be as much as $15,000. If the owner won't, or can't, pay the Lake Lanier Association tries to use funds from state, local or federal sources to clean it up. If not, they'll ask for donations or help to raise the abandoned boat and haul it away.