HUDSON, Fla. — Floridians face a potential health hazard because of Styrofoam in their water, according to Pasco County environmental engineer Marc Rhodes.
Rhodes says it is his new year’s resolution to encourage local and state leaders to take a stricter stand against old Styrofoam docks.
Rhodes retired from his job in the Midwest and moved to Hudson three years ago.
One reason he chose that location was because it was nicknamed “Nature Coast.” It has miles of canals leading to the Gulf, giving Rhodes ample opportunities to fish and kayak.
But Rhodes says lately the water outside his home has been filled with tiny Styrofoam particles, which are caused by chunks of the material breaking off floating docks.
“The environment is being destroyed slowly over time. It's a death by a thousand cuts,” Rhodes said.
He says millions of tiny micro beads are coming from his neighbors' decaying non-encapsulated Styrofoam docks.
Those pieces of plastic eventually end up floating into the Gulf of Mexico.
“It breaks apart into these little tiny pieces that get covered with dirt and algae and animals confuse them for food,” Rhodes said.
Some of the fish that eat those particles eventually are caught and eaten by people.
“We're living in a great big test tube that no one knows what the end results are gonna be,” Rhodes said.
It's not just a problem here.
During a three-year study in California, scientists found high concentrations of micro plastics in the guts of sea animals and identified contaminants at depths of up to 1000 feet.
Last year, Pasco County adopted a law requiring that new docks are to be constructed with only encapsulated flotation materials, reducing the likelihood of future Styrofoam pollution.
But existing non-encapsulated Styrofoam docks are still allowed.
Last year, the county sent warning letters to 88 dock owners for violations under the county's litter law.
“No, it's not enough. because the fact is there are Styrofoam docks everywhere. They're breaking apart. The county's not doing anything. So what good is their present system?
Rhodes says the county or state should eventually outlaw all existing non-encapsulated Styrofoam docks, as has happened in other cities and other states.
Pasco County formed a new Marine Enforcement Unit last June to work proactively to prevent pollution from these plastics.
A county spokesperson says when that unit identifies a dilapidated, non-encapsulated flotation dock, the owner is responsible for placing a floating boom around the structure to prevent the spread of pollutants.
To report violations, contact the Pasco County Customer Service Center at (727) 847-2411.
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