HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. -- Dozens of old tires are littering the bottom of the gulf because of a mistake made decades ago by people trying to keep the water healthy.
Now, Hernando County Waterways is working with the University of Florida and Scubanauts to remove the tires.
"We’re fixing the mistakes of the past," said Keith Kolasa, Manager of Hernando County Waterways.
It's a mistake that was made in the 1970s when old tires were commonly used to make artificial reefs.
"For some reason, they thought tires would create habitat because of the space inside of the tire," said Kolasa.
But they were wrong.
"They don’t make good reef material, they’re considered garbage," said Kolasa.
Most of the tires have been underwater for nearly 40 years and have no marine growth on them because of the toxic chemicals in them.
"The tires are just there, they’re not really doing anything but putting bad stuff in the water," said 15-year-old Nolan McEntire, a diver with the Scubanauts program.
Nolan along with other Scubanaut volunteers are helping clean up part of the 80 tires near the Richardson reef, 16 miles off the coast of Hernando County.
"It’s kind of weird seeing the tires in the ocean next to a reef where they do not belong," said Nolan.
They are also working to pick up abandoned crab traps and lines that also don’t belong and are harmful to marine life and sea turtles.
"It’s kind of sad but at the same time it's good that we’re picking all of it up," said Nolan.
Kolasa says other areas around the state are also working to clean up tires that were placed on artificial reefs decades ago.
The county has permits to remove tires and traps without coral and plan to have the project completed within a year.