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Where Do Cars Go When They Die?
by Jerry Cegelske


December 17, 2004

It has been estimated that approximately 300-350 new and used vehicles arrive in Ketchikan every year.  What happens to the vehicles they replaced?  The average Ketchikan family gives the old beater to the kids to drive for a few years until it is no longer feasible to keep due to repair expenses.  While still running, it gets sold to some young person who can afford gas and little else. The vehicle gets driven until it dies when it is pushed off to the side of the road and left there.  This is what happened to the Silver Nissan truck in the picture.  It was left along North Tongass for several months and then the vandals started destroying it by breaking windows and tearing up the interior. Recently a Chevy Nova was left along S. Tongass and the owner left town.  The vehicle was a traffic hazard due to it being on the inside of a curve blocking the view of oncoming traffic.  

jpg old car

Junk vehicle after being abandoned and vandalized.

Fortunately there are many responsible people that rather than let the car die on the road, take it to the Ward Cove Mill site where they kiss it good-bye for the last time before it is mercifully put out of it's misery of rust, a failing engine and leaking window and door seals or what have you.  So what happens now?  The car is put on a rack where the fluids are drained, wheels are removed, and then the body is compressed.  It is then stacked with the remains of other vehicles to weather in the rain and wind, but not for long.
The three pictures show some of the process of loading scrap metal, appliances, and junk cars from the Mill site onto a barge.  The tugs Lumberman and Togiak are side tied next to a barge while the loading of the vehicles and scrap metal takes place.  The material is taken onto one barge with the truck and backhoe, it is then transferred to the second barge where another backhoe works to move the scrap metal and stack it for a full load.  Note the size of the pile as compared to the truck in the foreground.  This process occurrs about 4-5 times a year in Ketchikan as the old vehicles are taken to be recycled and made into new vehicles and other items.

jpg tugs

The tugs Lumberman and Togiak at the Ward Cove Mill site
while loading scrap metal and junk vehicles.

It is interesting that there are still 300-350 vehicles which should undergo this process in back yards, driveways, lots, and on the public streets.  But of course, "this one is a classic, that one I'll get running when I have the time, and that one just needs a new water pump, brakes and tires as soon as I can get the money for it and the time to get it fixed", and not while it's raining!  "Sure I'll go fishing with you Saturday, I was just going to work on the old wreck" and "I will pick up the parts next week" "but this is Derby weekend".  Somehow the time is never right and the money is never there to get them fixed up to drive or be sold, so they sit in the rain, rusting away, and losing more value.  (Ladies this is your chance- Tell Hubby that you want the junker to be gone as one of your Christmas presents!  Wouldn't you like your yard or lot to be seen as a nice place other than "Joe's Someday I'll Get To It But Now I'm Busy Repair Yard"? )
In passing on the junkers to someone who will take it off their hands instead of taking it to the Mill site, more problems are created for Borough residents.  An underground repair shop illegally operating in a residential neighborhood takes the old beater, does some minor repairs to get it running for at least a week, after having stored it and the other eight clunkers in the yard and on the streets, and sells it for the $500 in parts plus another couple hundred for their labor.  This thing lasts until the worn parts which weren't replaced fail so it can't be driven.  It gets sold or given to someone for parts, gets stripped and left along the road for the Borough to remove and give the last rites to.  There are many residential lots that look more like a junk yard than a residence.  Several of these will soon be getting citations as one got last month.  They are an eyesore to the neighbors, and an irritant as they do most of their work after hours when the neighbors are trying to relax from a hard day at work.  After giving a Use and Occupancy Zoning violation to one of the illegal repair shops, the owner proudly told me the history of the vehicles, how he was getting them running, and that they weren't the junk vehicles he thought he was getting the citation for having on his property.
Encourage your neighbors, (Ladies, your husbands and mechanically inclined kids) to get rid of the old clunkers they have laying around if they don't have the time or money to get them repaired.  Tell them about this article and that they can dispose of junk vehicles and scrap metal at the Mill site at no cost after obtaining a voucher from the Public Works Dept., at 247-5541.  Get rid of the eyesores and give yourself and the community a nice Christmas present that we can all share and appreciate.
Merry Christmas

Jerry Cegelske
Code enforcement
Ketchikan Gateway Borough
Ketchikan, AK - USA


jpg loading scrap metal & cars

Loading scrap metal and cars

jpg stacking scrap metal

Stacking scrap metal

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