The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 18, 2013

Submerged superstorm debris threatens tourism

(Continued)

Seaside Heights also plans to send teams of divers to scour the ocean bottom in popular swimming areas before letting people back into the water, fearing parts of the wooden pier, metal pieces from boardwalk rides and other debris still linger in the ocean. Cars from the pier's amusement rides were found on beaches as far as 8 miles away in the days after the storm.

The Polar Bear Plunge, in which swimmers briefly dash into and out of the frigid surf to raise money for charity, was moved this year from Seaside Heights to Long Branch, a beach 24 miles to the north where hidden debris wasn't a concern.

New York and Connecticut face similar problems.

"We have everything from floating oil barrels, gasoline tanks, household hazardous waste products, buckets, tires, bathtubs, you name it," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment on Long Island.

"We're concerned not only about pollution, but boater safety," she said. "Come the spring, this stuff is going to be submerged partially or totally, but the boats are going to have some very serious issues."

Rob Weltner, president of Operation Splash, said the Freeport, N.Y., volunteer group has spent the past 20 years collecting 1 million pounds of debris, mostly from waterways on the south shore of Long Island.

"Twenty years is out the window," he said. "Gone, gone. Sandy hit us right at the time when we would normally be putting the finishing touches on our cleanups. Every place I look I go, 'Oh, my God, not again, man. We just had that place looking beautiful and it's going to take us another 10 or 15 years to get it back looking decent again."

Among the items found by the group since Sandy are hot tubs, floating docks, damaged boats, barbecue grills, patio furniture, umbrellas, hundreds of trash cans and the grandfather clock.

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