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Ocean County to Host Boat Flare Disposal Event (The First Ever in N.J.)

Boat/marine flares. (Photo: Vivian Matuk, California State Parks and California Coastal Commission)

Boat/marine flares. (Photo: Vivian Matuk, California State Parks and California Coastal Commission)

Boaters in Ocean County – and beyond – are often faced with a dilemma when it comes to disposing of expired marine flares.

While flares, generally in the form of hand-held sticks or rounds designed to be fired by a flare gun, are mandatory for the vast majority of vessels, they remain in working order well after their expiration dates. Neither local recycling centers, fire companies, nor the county’s U.S. Coast Guard stations accept these flares for disposal. This year, however, Ocean County is providing a rare opportunity for disposal.

The disposal program will take May 6, 2023 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ocean County Fire Training Center, 200 Volunteer Way, Waretown. Flares will be accepted from Ocean County residents only. Flares from marinas and businesses will not be accepted. There will be 600 appointments available and residents can drop off a maximum of 10 flares. Orange smoke-producing flares are also accepted. Program participants are asked to remain in their vehicles at all times, and registration is required (at this link).

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“Ocean County has a very large boating community and we want to offer boaters a free program that allows them to dispose of old boat flares properly,” said Ocean County Commissioner Barbara Jo Crea, liaison to the Ocean County Department of Solid Waste Management. “This new program is a cooperative effort of several Ocean County departments working together to provide a safe and convenient means of getting rid of flares.”

The United States Coast Guard requires nearly all boats on intracoastal and inland waters to carry a means of distress signaling suitable for night use. Regular flares are sold in packs of four and expire every four years. The program is being overseen by the Ocean County Department of Solid Waste Management, the Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Ocean County Training Center which houses the Ocean County Fire Academy.

“While all boaters are required to carry flares on their boats for safety reasons, there are very few if any avenues to dispose of them safely,” Crea said. “This pilot program will be the first residential program to dispose of marine flares in New Jersey.”

The program was the product of a great amount of work, developed by county employees with the assistance of a host of other government agencies, to solve a problem that has plagued boaters for years. Ocean County received a Research, Development & Design (RD&D) permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop the program. An open burning permit was also issued by NJDEP to comply with air quality regulations.

A slew of agencies were consulted in the planning of the event: the U.S. Coast Guard, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New Jersey State Police, Marine Services Bureau, fire academies in Ocean County, including Toms River and Brick Township, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, Sea Grant New Jersey, and other coastal communities throughout the United States including Annapolis, Maryland and California.

“The staff from these various departments did a lot of research to create this pilot program,” said Commissioner Gary Quinn, noting that in years past, residents were told to bring flares to fire departments or the Coast Guard. However, they are no longer accepted by those agencies.

Materials that will be accepted on May 6 are red hand-held, parachute, red meteor, orange smoke Signals, and floating orange smoke flares.

The program will not accept road flares, electronic flares, plastic flare launchers, and other explosives.

While Ocean County has drawn praise for hosting free household hazardous waste disposal events throughout the year, boat flares were not eligible for disposal even at these events.

“We do not accept flares at our household hazardous waste collection sites,” Crea said. “We do not want them dumped at the landfill or put out in recycling or trash so it was important to develop a program that addressed this.”

The program has the dual goal of preventing used flares from being disposed of into the bay itself, as some boaters – without any other means of disposal – have lit off flares and dunked them in the water until they extinguished themselves.

There are about 25,000 boats registered in Ocean County, the most in the state. Once collected, the county will destroy the old or used flares in a container used for controlled burns at the Ocean County Training Center. This will be done under the supervision of trained personnel, officials said.

Registration is required and can be completed online at this link or by calling 732-506-5047.

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