Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Tire Reef
It sounded like a good idea at the time. Dump old tires in the ocean to get rid of them, and at the same time, help create a new reef, but it didn't work and now all those tires are causing a big problem. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- Look out at the ocean from Fort Lauderdale Beach on a perfect spring day and you'd never know there is trouble below that blue water, seventy feet below to be exact.
There are about 700,000 tires here that were dumped decades ago, in the hopes they would become the building blocks for a new reef, but nothing grew on them no fish lived near them. The tires are nothing more than an underwater dump site that is costing millions of dollars to remove and now there's no more money to remove them.
Pat Quinn, Broward County Natural Resource Specialist: "Its an ecological disaster, and so we are working to remove the tires in pretty much any feasible way that we can."
So thousands of tires are floating on the sea floor threatening native plants and nearby coral reefs.
Stacy Ritter, Broward County Commissioner: "We are very concerned that if we had a major hurricane, that all those floating tires out there could provide even more damage to the barriers and the reefs that are there."
Commissioner Stacy Ritter says Broward County stopped its tire reef clean-up efforts due to lack of funds.
Stacy Ritter: Everyone knows that the county budget has been in crisis the past several years. So, because we can no longer pay a private company to have them removed, we have been looking for alternatives."
One hope was that the U.S. Department of Defense would continue to cleanup the site. They've been using it as a training exercise for army/navy divers, but they said they couldn't help this year.
Pat Quinn: "Due to the other commitments that these military units have that they weren't able to come this year."
But, some local business leaders say someone has to do something.
David Pressler: "If you can prevent 100,000 tires from moving that's something, but to sit back and hope for money to arrive and cross your fingers that we're not going to have a storm is just not a good approach at all."
David Pressler's construction company, along with a Fort Pierce diving business, say they have come up with an alternative plan to help save the natural environment.
David Pressler: "We know we can take these tires and create steel nets, a series of steel nets anchored and cover the tire field."
But, leading marine experts say while the free floating tire reef is a tragedy, making the wrong move now could make things even worse.
Dr. Robin Sherman, Nova Southeastern University: "To put something on top of them without thinking about whether or not its going to move may simply be repeating a mistake."
Broward County says David would have to apply for permits, which could take years, and his proposal needs to be studied further.
Pat Quinn: "There would be a lot of technical issues that have to be worked out."
Carmel Cafiero: "Although there are different opinions about what to do with the tires, there is agreement on the fact that as long as they are out there, they represent an environmental risk."
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