Styrofoam pollutes waterways after Irma

Docks that broke off after Hurricane Irma were made of Styrofoam, which could threaten wildlife

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Kevin Carrigan has a 20-foot-long piece of floating dock tide to his own dock on Salt Run in St. Augustine. That piece dock broke apart from a nearby marina during Hurricane Irma.

He found it in the water grasses by his own do right after the hurricane.

The lower part of that piece of floating dock is made of Styrofoam.

"You can see the Styrofoam breaking," he pointed to small little pieces in the water.

Since the hurricane, First Coast News found many big pieces of floating docks in Salt Run and the Intracoastal Waterway with Styrofoam bottoms. That Styrofoam breaks up into little Styrofoam pebbles.

"You can see it's all micro particles of Styrofoam," Carrigan said. "You can see it on the shore. They're just all washed up, just floating in and out of the reeds."

Carrigan has been cleaning it out of his stretch of Salt Run. He is an environmental activist and worried about what the Styrofoam will do to marine life.

"All these look like little seeds to a marine critter or bird or a turtle or fish. They'll just eat them," he said.

Carrigan took his concerns to the St. Augustine Port and Waterway Authority Thursday.  He asked for funding for emergency clean-up and to discuss better ways to make docks.

"There are closed-cell foams that will break up into large chunks, but they wont' break down into these tiny pebbles," he said.

He said floating docks can also be made with plastics and aluminum.

"I feel horrible about what happened and the tragedies to the marinas," he said. "My heart goes out to them. We have to be smarter when we rebuild and make sure people know there are better materials out there and they shouldn't be using this Styrofoam."

While he works to clean up his 100-foot section of marsh, Carrigan said the problem of tiny particles is a big one.

"It's compounding the disaster (of Hurricane Irma)," he noted.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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