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Future Remediation Costs

The disaster of the Osborne Reef in Broward County, Florida should serve as an example of future unforeseen costs. Two million tires were intentionally dumped in 1972, covering 36 acres of ocean floor with the intention of creating an artificial reef. Not surprisingly, the tires did not create an artificial reef, but rather inflicted harm to nearby coral reefs when storms, hurricanes and currents propelled tires into

natural

reefs,

devastating

the

marine

environment. The dumping site was labeled an environmental disaster. In 2001, a tire removal pilot study removed 1,600 tires at a cost of

$17.00/tire.123

Due to the magnitude of the

project and the total projected cost of

million to remove all 2 million

progress

has

been

made

to

tires, abate

$34 little this

underwater wasteland.

In 2001, New York Transportation Authority

City Metropolitan (MTA) offered up

1,300 Redbird subway cars and disposed of 23 million pounds of scrap metal on the ocean floor, saving a reported $11 to $13 million in disposal costs. The so-called savings were based on an estimated costs for proper land-based disposal due to the required asbestos remediation, which the MTA avoided by simply dumping at sea. States such as Delaware welcomed this dumping as it was free material for the supposed benefit of artificial reefs, while other states such as New Jersey and Maryland turned the cars away when MTA acknowledged the asbestos contamination. New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco, said at the time, "While I strongly support the artificial reef program, I believe we must err on the side of safety and the environment."

New Jersey later opted to sink newer stainless steel subway cars that were apparently free of asbestos. The cars were expected to last 20

123

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/quick_topics/publications/shw/ti res/reef/Osborne-History_18Aug09.pdf

EXTERNALIZED COSTS

years in the submerged environment; however 90% of these cars collapsed entirely on the ocean floor months after deployment in 2008.124 Their utility as an artificial reef was rendered minimal. Meanwhile the asbestos, lead paint and host of other toxic compounds aboard the Redbird vessels will continue polluting the ocean beyond the expected lifespan of the artificial reef. States such as Delaware are incurring minimal costs to sink waste material such as subway cars and naval vessels, yet the hidden costs to the environment have yet to be accounted for and part of these costs may include future remediation. States do not have reserve funds for future abatement responsibilities, which suggest the Federal government may bear the financial burden in years to come.

Sunken naval vessels are much like tires and subway cars. They are merely a solid waste material that is being disposed of on the ocean floor with artificial reef being the justification. However, the ocean floor may not be the final resting place of these waste materials, as future

The Osborne Reef off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is comprised of 2 million tires intentionally sunk in 1972. In 2007, U.S. military forces began clean-up of this environmental disaster, however clean-up efforts have only removed a reported 73,000 tires to date. Image Source: Navy Combat Camera Dive Ex-East

124

http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/pdf/2010/reef_news10.pdf BASEL ACTION NETWORK

41

2011

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