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Boat owner liable for oil leak cleanup cost

The Noli Eileen, a 56-foot fishing boat, is

The Noli Eileen, a 56-foot fishing boat, is partially submerged in Huntington Bay. (July 28, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

A 56-foot fishing boat that had been idling in Huntington Harbor for four years began taking on water July 5 and partially sank, leaking oil as it descended.

The leak has been contained and Huntington Town officials are working to remove the partially submerged Noli Eileen and have it disassembled, hopefully this week.

The town's senior harbor master, Harry Acker, said the boat's owner, Peter Gens of Kings Park, had used the boat for charter fishing trips, but it has not been used since 2008. Acker said Gens has other boats in the harbor that he maintains but had let the boat insurance on the Noli Eileen expire and now does not have the financial means to remove the boat from the harbor.

"This boat wasn't abandoned," Acker said. "He was maintaining it, but the boat is wood and something happened to it and it started taking on a tremendous amount of water."

Gens has been cited for having an unseaworthy vessel, an expired mooring permit and pollution of waterways. He and his attorney, Barry Casper, of Hauppauge, did not return phone calls for comment.

Acker said the town has received a $20,000 quote from an outside company to have the boat raised and floated on air bags to the harbor boat ramp. He said there will be an additional undetermined cost to disassemble the boat and dispose of the pieces, but he expects that job to be done by town workers.

Acker said the town attorney's office is in contact with Casper to arrange a payback agreement.

"We will compel him either through the court or an agreement to pay the town back for all the costs," Acker said. "We want to be reimbursed for taking care of his problem."

He said the bay constable who responded to reports of the boat sinking tried to save it by putting pumps on it to keep it afloat, but it got too low in the water. Workers weren't able to stay ahead of the incoming water and it started to sink, he said.

Acker said the bay constable put a boom of water-resistant, cotton-like material around the boat to contain and absorb the estimated 15 gallons of oil that escaped from the it.

"It would have been worse if the fuel tank was filled," Acker said. "We did a first-aid attempt. If it was a serious spill, the Coast Guard would remove the oil and batteries if the owner didn't take care of it in a period of time."

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