Thursday, June 07, 2007

You're Tired? Head To Fort Lauderdale Beach

Jeffrey Kofman, ABC correspondent heads to the beach and lets you in on a dirty secret. Lying on the bottom of the ocean are reefs that are just junk.

It’s a good thing sun lovers on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale can’t see below the surface. Because if they could the ocean view that lured them here might not be so seductive. Just seventy feet below the surface and a mile off shore, sits a man-made environmental disaster. An estimated two million tires littering the ocean floor.

It is one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” stories. More than thirty years ago someone came up with the idea of solving two problems at once: get rid of a lot of used tires and create a new reef for fish, coral and tourists.

It didn’t work.

Back in 1972 -- with government approval -- flotillas of boats headed off shore to heave tires into the ocean.

But hurricanes, waves and water currents jostled the tire piles. Fish and coral never took to them… instead this junk pile that was intended to create an artificial reef is destroying a natural reef.

There are similar dumps off the coasts of Texas and Virginia. And in North Carolina, where hundreds of tires from another deep sea dump were washed ashore in 1998 during Hurricane Bonnie.

This week the U.S. Navy began the massive cleanup job, using the underwater tire field to train novice divers in salvage and recovery. It will cost several million dollars and take several years to restore the ocean floor to the way it was before it became a dumping ground.

Matthew Hoelscher has the ugly pictures.

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