Artificial Reef Creates Environmental Havoc
– words by Drew Kampion
Fort Lauderdale, Florida – An artificial reef created by dumping millions of tires into the ocean a mile offshore in 1972 is set for removal. Intended to create a breeding ground for all sorts of marine species, the mound of used auto rubber has created problems instead.
First off, marine species didn’t seem to enjoy the fragrant vulcanized habitat, and little breeding seemed to occur in the neighborhood. And then, the nylon and steel cabling that held the formation together was ripped apart by storms over the years, scattering thousands of tires along area beaches and scouring a large area of ocean floor in the immediate vicinity.
The removal and cleanup of the Fort Lauderdale reef is scheduled to begin this month and is estimated to run through 2010 at a cost of some $3.4 million. The original reef had the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with tires donated by the Goodyear company. A huge volunteer effort was involved in the transport of the tires to the site. All in all, a great example of how the best of intentions can lead to unforeseen and unwanted results.
Problems have been reported with other tire reefs around the world. Ironically, they’re especially lethal to coral reefs. One big problem with tires as reef material (as opposed to sunken ships, say) is they’re too light and are easily moved around by powerful oceanic forces, thus disturbing marine life populations. Another suspected habitat problem: rubber leaches toxins.
Worldwide, problems with the tire reefs have caused the practice to fall out of favor, and other tire-recovery efforts are (or will be) underway. Volunteers for the Ocean Conservancy’s annual international coastal cleanup removed more than 11,000 tires in 2005 alone – still, a drop in the bucket considering the millions and millions of tires that are polluting and wreaking havoc throughout the world’s oceans.