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After Decades, Fake Tire Reefs 'Killing and Smothering' Real Coral


After Decades, Fake Tire Reefs 'Killing and Smothering' Real Coral

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Florida officials have restarted cleanup of hundreds of thousands of tires dumped into the ocean decades ago in hopes of creating an artificial reef.

According to Allison Schutes, manager of the Trash Free Seas program at the Ocean Conservancy, between one and two million tires were dropped into the waters around Florida in the 1970s in an effort to bolster the ecosystem, but the marine life in the area did not adapt to their presence—and the tires started killing off existing, natural reefs.


No, seriously, who could possibly have imagined any bad results from dumping millions of toxic tires in the sea?

As i wrote in a recent song:

“Keep on drivin’, baby…”


I drift dived over this toxic tire dump by Hugh Taylor Birch Park in the late eighties. The current was running strong, but it took the entire dive time of about 45 minutes drifting over this tire dump with no end in sight. Nothing grew and nothing lived on these tires although they had been there for many years. The outfall off Pompano Beach was also lined with tires. I’m glad that all these tires are finally being disposed of and hope the outfall’s tires will also. But there must be a better way to dispose of them than incineration. Incinerators have caused mercury contamination of the Everglades. As a result, the fish in the Glades are toxic and dangerous to eat.

Clean metal, wood, cement and non-toxic structures like old ships, cars, airplanes, trains, towers and clean construction rubble make the best artificial reefs I have seen. An artificial reef just below the surface, made up of these materials could be built offshore around the state where beach erosion is more prevalent. Marine life would soon inhabit it, coral would grow on it and the force of the eroding waves would be lessened without the need for frequent and more expensive beach renourishment (dredging sand up on the beach). Mangroves would also grow and form a barrier to hurricanes and erosion.

Many Floridians want a sandbox instead of a natural beach. They hire beach raking tractors to remove the seaweed that washes up on the beaches, destroying turtle nests, crabs and mollusks and causing more beach erosion. They seem to forget that the Florida Keys they love have natural beaches, protected from beach raking. Seaweed actually buttresses the beach and serves as fertilizer for plants to grow, preventing further erosion. Next day, the seaweed washes up again and the destructive process of removing it is repeated and paid for it with our taxes and assessments.

Florida will suffer from climate change and global warming. (Take that Scott!) It is never too late to take measures to ameliorate its worst aspects such as sea level rise.


All great comments so far! It always sounded like a plan to eliminate a few million tires foremost, to me. However, I would like to propose a different type of solution, and ask a question about people’s apparent motives & reactions. First the different solution: Would it not be possible to move rock and cover the tires to some minimal depth, adding sand to fill in all the gaps, and have a real reef able to use it just like normal sea floor? Or is it already too close to the surface? It isn’t clear from the picture, but if folks like nb above have direct knowledge and experience, maybe teaming up with engineers & scientists could offer a better solution? After all, wouldn’t a barrier-type reef be beneficial to Florida? I can think of a bunch of good arguments for a reef there, just not delusional enough to believe that a stack of puny tires would be a match for the ocean!

Second, and don’t take offense for me bring it up, but if we do get a person in charge who will act to fix all that’s broken: have we thought of how folks all over will take that? We had a Guv in AZ in the 80’s who tried it, he eventually pissed off every last one of us over some issue we cared “deeply” about, (and all though: and Ha Ha, Screw You to everyone else when their pet issue got into Evan Mecham: Used Car Salesman’s sights.) Siouxrose might have been here for that. If we did get someone into power who would implement all of the things we know to be right, just and necessary to fix our ship, almost half the folks would be mortal enemies, and 4/5 of the remaining folks will just be pissed off enough to say: Chuck you Farley’s you did this to yourselves and will happily vote again for the very folks who are creating the issues.

Think of the jobs (and who would pay for them) created in taking tons and tons of rock and sand and creating a true barrier reef structure for critters where the tires are sequestered in the earth where they can eventually revert back to oil in a few gazillion years.


If marine organisms have avoided the tires for decades, they are detecting something they don’t like. After some Searching and reading, I’d have to say that the possibility of pollutants leaching from the tires into the water is real and would make this a doubtful project until more definitive studies could be done (and if true, the submerged tires would, of course, continue to pollute).