700,000 tyres to be exhumed from seabed off Florida

The Guardian reports, 22nd May 2015: Florida officials have resumed raising some of the hundreds of thousands of tyres dumped off its shores decades ago during an unsuccessful attempt to create an artificial reef.

A salvage crew hauls up tyres from Osborne Tyre Reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A salvage crew hauls up tyres from Osborne Tyre Reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, earlier this month.
Photograph: Broward County/Reuters

Between 1m and 2m tyres were piled in the waters around Florida in the 1970s, but coral and fish never took to them as hoped, according to Allison Schutes manager of the Trash Free Seas program at the Washington-based Ocean Conservancy. Now they are causing other problems.

“The ocean has ever-changing currents and storms, and they’re moving around and smothering and killing natural coral,” said Allison Schutes.

The clean up effort is focused on the artificial Osborne Reef, a massive pile of about 700,000 tyres dropped near Fort Lauderdale by dozens of boats in 1972, said Pat Quinn, a Broward County natural resource specialist overseeing the clean up.

The Florida legislature authorized $2m for the work in 2007 and military divers began in 2008, exhuming nearly 62,000 tyres from their watery graves, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Yet the effort stalled as divers, who were tethered to the surface wearing heavy suits, were called away over the years for more urgent duties.

“We were fighting two wars, and there were natural disasters,” Quinn said. “When the earthquake happened in Haiti it was the same team who helped clear the port,” he added referring to damaged piers vital for offloading relief supplies.

With a remaining $1.6m, Florida officials hope to raise another 90,000 tyres over the next two years. The tyres, which were dumped before recycling was possible, will be trucked across the state to Florida’s west coast and burned for energy at a Wheelebrator Technologies renewable waste plant near Tampa, owned by private equity firm Energy Capital Partners.

Still, more a half million will remain, partially buried on the sea floor.

Source: The Guardian, 22nd May 2015. For the full text, see www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/22/florida-retrieving-700000-tires-after-failed-bid-to-create-artifical-reef

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