Hundreds of thousands of tires are in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. Some are sinking, and some are floating.
“You can turn your head and tires are buried three to four feet deep as far as you can see. It’s almost overwhelming looking at that tire field,” Pat Quinn, Broward County Natural Resource Specialist, said.
It’s not an accident. The state did this on purpose back in the 1970s. They thought it would actually be a victory for the environment.
The state dumped the tires hoping they would turn into artificial reefs. They didn’t.
“The tires aren’t going anywhere. They don’t really degrade. Not in our lifetime or our children's lifetime,” Quinn said. “We probably removed about 250,000 tires out of the possible 700,000 that are down there.”
This artificial reef experiment didn’t work, but we got smarter and we’re still building artificial reefs in the gulf. This time, they are made of concrete.
“Once the concrete is there then we’ll have corals, sponges, tuna kits, oysters. Lots of things that attach to that material and stay there,” Steve Boutelle with Lee County Natural Resources said.
Lee County accepted a $120,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
So while we’re still trying to remove hundreds of thousands of tires from the ocean, we’re putting pounds of concrete back into the gulf.
What’s the difference? Concrete is expected to last at a minimum of 50 years. Unlike the tires, it won’t float away and hurt other things in the water. Meanwhile, we’re going to be pulling tires out of the ocean for a long time.
“With the 250 we pulled up, if we move another 250,000 tires, we’ll have to reevaluate whether it would be economically feasible to continue to pull tires,” Quinn said. “We’ll probably never get all the tires out.”
Photo Credit: Broward County