Volunteers, port tackle remaining tsunami-damaged dock debris

By Jane Stebbins, The Curry Coastal Pilot

Debris from the local tsunami damage more than a year ago is still creating headaches for some.

"I was walking on the beaches about six or eight months ago, and there was styrofoam everywhere," said Bill Vogel of Brookings. "So I put out a call for volunteers and we're working on it, and working on it and working on it."

The styrofoam, much of it affixed to concrete and other infrastructure, originated from broken docks at the Port of Brookings-Harbor.

Port Manager Ted Fitzgerald said about 75 percent of what Vogel and his volunteers removed from the beach has been hauled away.

Some of it is even in demand from fishermen who have asked port authorities for some to use to help floatation.

But what's left is disintegrating into little white pebbles and blowing away in the wind or rain.

"It's going back into the environment," Vogel said. "It breaks up into little balls and goes everywhere."

Fitzgerald said port employees plan to discard the larger chunks of material today (May 25).

Vogel is asking for volunteers to meet near the port's boat shop at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 2, to finish the job.

Fitzgerald said cleanup is one of many challenges the port still faces in light of the tsunami and the damage it wreaked upon the harbor March 11, 2011. Cleanup andndash; along with finishing touches along the docks andndash; must be prioritized within the port's budget.

"We only have so many people," he said. "We have a budget. And I care do about the environment; I work in the environment all the time."

Vogel's worries aren't just local, either.

He's concerned the little balls will end up in the North Pacific Gyre, the enormous, swirling mass of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean.

The gyre is created by ocean currents, and its size is difficult to measure, as most of it comprises tiny plastic particles hovering just below the surface.

The North Pacific Gyre collects trash from the coasts of Japan and North America; other such trash-collecting gyres exist in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Some estimate the gyre to be twice the size of the state of Texas and the material within to outweigh plankton by a 6:1 ratio.

"This, here, is definitely an environmental issue," Vogel said. "The animals eat it, the fish eat it, then we eat them."

According to Greenpeace, of the more than 200 billion pounds of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean. Seventy percent of that eventually sinks, and the rest floats or drifts up on shore.

"We're doing a wonderful job destroying this planet," Vogel said. "The human species is like a malignant cancer, and I'm not proud to be a member. I want this done. I want this clean."

For more information, call Vogel at 541-469-3640.

13698452
The Curry Coastal Pilot
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