2005-09-01 / Front Page

Marine debris litters state shoreline

By Donna K. Drago

Last year two men who claim to have 80 combined years of experience on Narragansett Bay took it upon themselves to produce a survey of large-scale debris that can be found all along Rhode Island’s shoreline.

The Narragansett Bay Partial Debris Survey is packed with photographs of partially-sunken boats and Navy cast-offs that the authors suggest may be hazardous to the marine environment.

Capt. Alan Wentworth, owner of SeaTow Rhode Island, and Capt. Ed Hughes of the Recreational Fishing Alliance have documented the locations, using GPS co-ordinates, of much of the shoreline litter that is of such a size that it would have to be removed with heavy-duty construction equipment.

Wentworth said that the survey was done over a period of two months in the summer of 2004, and that the final product was mailed last September to state officials and environmental groups around the state.

So far, said Wentworth, no one has called back.

Wentworth and Hughes, in a letter to Gov. Donald Carcieri, tell the governor that “nearly every coastal community” in the state, is littered with debris. They specifically mention “camels,” which are large creosote-soaked wood and steel “fenders” used by the Navy to keep ships away from the piers.

“Camels,” Wentworth and Hughes said, are “not only an eyesore, but because creosote is a toxic substance, they may be a hazard to marine and human life.”

Jeff Neal, from Gov. Carcieri’s office said that the governor has passed the survey on to Michael Sullivan, head of the state’s Department of Environmental Management and will let him “determine ways to deal with the issue.”

The partial survey depicts some 15 camels plus derelict hulls on the north end of Jamestown alone.

Jim Archibald, manager of Jamestown Boat Yard and chairman of the town’s Harbor Management Commission, said he was familiar with camels and that there used to be one in front of the boat yard.

“We hacked it up with chainsaws and threw it away,” Archibald said, noting that he has not seen the debris survey by Wentworth and Hughes.

Because it has not come up at a meeting, Archibald said he could not comment on the matter as chairman of the HMC, but that the “HMC should take a look at it (the survey) and comment.”

On a personal level, Archibald said that “if the litter is there as a result of pure abandonment” he felt that “we should go to the responsible party and see what they want to do about it.”

Ed Hughes, a charter fishing captain, said yesterday morning that because they have had so little response to their survey thus far, “I guess we’re going to have to do this ourselves.”

The two have just formed a non-profit group called “Clean The Bay,” which will use volunteers to help clean up some of the debris.

“We’ll leave the camels to the state and the Navy,” Hughes said, “because it’s dangerous to clean up carcinogenic materials,” he added.

The cleanup will cost a lot of money, Hughes and Wentworth agreed.

“We’re looking for donations,” they said.

The two said that they want to be partners with the state and local agencies, but they have been repeatedly frustrated by a seeming lack of interest.

Between them, they said, they have called Save The Bay “at least a dozen times,” and no one has ever returned their calls.

Save The Bay did not return a call from the Press either.

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