NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two abandoned barges polluting Flushing Bay have finally been pulled from the water. The campaign to have the vessels removed began as a grassroots effort.

People are applauding the government agencies that worked together to make it happen, CBS2’s Elise Finch reported.

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All that’s left of the deteriorating barges is a mountain of Styrofoam and wood. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the boats were actually contaminating the water as they decayed.

“The barges were constructed of steel. They had wood and concrete decking on top and they had Styrofoam blocks underneath that decking to increase the buoyancy… so as the barges started breaking apart the primary pollutant was the Styrofoam because it floats all around Flushing Bay,” Col. David Caldwell said.

The big blocks pose a navigation safety hazard to other vessels and the smaller pieces kill fish and birds. The barges were deliberately abandoned by their owners. All identifying markings were removed so tax payers will foot the bill to have them removed.

“Someone profited off of this bay and then dumped their refuse here. It’s not acceptable — not just from an environmental standpoint, they are robbing the American taxpayer,” Rep. Joe Crowley said.

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The cost to secure and remove the barges was more than $850,000. The barges sat just under the flight path of departing planes at LaGuardia Airport, so most of the removal was done overnight when the equipment would pose little risk to aircraft.

Work started this past Wednesday and wrapped up Monday afternoon. It was necessary because Flushing Bay is an important waterway in New York City, both commercially and recreationally, even as pollution has been a long-term problem.

“We see dead animals, feces, hypodermic needles, used condoms. It’s really an eyesore and then the scent is another issue,” Akila Simon of Dragon Boat Club said.

Members of the Empire Dragon Boat Club, along with groups like Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay, spearheaded the effort to get the barges removed and celebrated the victory.

“Being cleaned up means a lot because we could actually physically see the pollution being removed from Flushing Bay,” Korin Tangtrakul of Guardians of Flushing Bay said.

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Crowley is offering a $10,000 reward for information that identifies the owners of the abandoned barges so the cost can be passed onto them. Someone used welding torches to remove the steel data plates from the barges that would have identified their owners. Officials remain determined to find the culprits.