RESIDENTS have raised concerns about two abandoned boats which have sunk near Abingdon Lock almost two years ago.

The two partly submerged boats have been left to sink in the river for the past 18 months and residents said they are not only a hazard for boaters but also environmentally damaging to the waters.

Some of them have written multiple letters to the Environment Agency, who has the power to remove and destroy the boats should they cause hazard, increased flood-risk or pollution, unders Section 16 of the Thames Conservancy Act 1932.

Herald Series:

Mayor Andy Foulsham said he hoped the owners could be tracked down by the agency so that the boats are removed as soon as possible.

He said: “I have seen the boats as I took part in a charity walk along the river and I think the situation is very concerning.

“It’s disappointing that the Environment Agency has not been able to take care of it and get hold of the owners – I think they should make steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again and that similar incidents don’t pollute the river and don’t cause environmental damage and hazards for the people who use the river.

“The boats owners should be doing something about it and I hope the Environment Agency gets in touch with them as soon as possible.”

The Environment Agency said that it is looking for a contractor to remove the boats but that they don’t pose an "immediate risk.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “As the owners of the vessels have failed to take action we are seeking a contractor to remove the boats in line with our safety policy. Fortunately they pose no immediate environmental risk and are clearly marked for boaters.

Herald Series:

“Sunken boats are the owners’ responsibility. We intervene if a boat is presenting a significant hazard, flood-risk or causing pollution. We would look to recover the full cost of the operation from the boat owner.

“We ask anyone who spots pollution or a potential blockage in a river to contact us on our 24-hour hotline, 0800 80 70 60.”

As abandoned vessels degrade they release pollutants such as diesel, gas and other system fluids that can contaminate the water.

Contact with the riverbed rapidly wears hull materials, releasing more toxic chemicals as the boat decomposes.

Experts say that decaying bottom paint and batteries are also toxic as they release chromium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc into the water.

Organisms living in the river then ingest these heavy metals and the toxins are then passed up the food chain.