Video: Styrofoam Docks Pollute Biscayne Bay Near Venetian Causeway, Environmentalists Say

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In Miami Beach, it's now illegal to package any food or drinks in Styrofoam containers, which dissolve into tiny particles that float along the top of the ocean for hundreds of years. The City of Miami Beach has already issued hundreds of dollars in Styrofoam fines.

But apparently, it's still perfectly legal to throw temporary Styrofoam docks right into Biscayne Bay. Over the weekend, one local environmentalist filmed workers on the Venetian Causeway renovation project using "40 to 50" Styrofoam docks.

In a video posted yesterday, activist Dave Doebler — a longtime crusader against Styrofoam — pans across a floating bridge under the Venetian. He zooms in, revealing chunks of the docks already breaking off and floating into the bay.

He says a friend first noticed the docks while paddleboarding on the bay this weekend.

"You can just tell that it's like very crappy Styrofoam that just breaks apart in my fingers," Doebler says in the video. He then adds, "I find this completely unacceptable."

It's still not clear precisely who is behind the docks. New Times asked Miami-Dade's Department of Transportation project if one of its contractors is using the docks, but the county couldn't immediately answer that question.

Miami-Dade County is in charge of the project to repair portions of the historic causeway that links mainland Miami and Miami Beach.

Styrofoam is a cheap solution for construction crews who need temporary docks. There are two types they can use: "capsulated" docks, which wrap the Styrofoam in a layer of plastic so it doesn't touch the water and disintegrate, and "unencapsulated"docks, such as the ones Doebler caught on video, which are cheaper and can be installed with less planning.

But Doebler says these kind of docks inevitably break apart.

"Basically, Styrofoam is thousands and thousands, millions of little tiny beads of a plastic," Doebler says. "They're held together by a glue. When this glue breaks down, that releases these individual Styrofoam beads into the water. They float around for hundreds of years, and fish mistake them for food. They look like little eggs. So these things enter our food supply."

In February, Doebler and his fellow activists noticed Yachts Miami Beach, which hosts events during the Miami International Boat Show, using unencapsulated Styrofoam docks. That month, Tracy Nolan, educational director of the Miami nonprofit Debris Free Oceans, told New Times she was “overwhelmed” by the amount of Styrofoam she saw in the water.

After activists spoke up, Yachts Miami Beach agreed to stop using unencapsulated docks by 2018 at a cost of $2.4 million. Environmentalists have lodged similar complaints at the organizers behind the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Given all the media attention surrounding the boat show complaints, Doebler says he's shocked to see a government company using so many Styrofoam docks.

"We have a law that prevents Styrofoam from being sold or used in restaurants," he says. "But we have no law that prevents anyone from putting Styrofoam straight into the water."

Doebler says he's asked the county to either immediately remove the docks or to surround them with yellow "construction booms," which would catch any floating beads. (He says the latter option is "less than ideal.")

He says he'll propose a new law banning these types of docks at Miami Beach's next Sustainability and Resiliency Committee meeting. He's also asking that Miami-Dade County adopt a similar ban.

"They're closing the causeway down for a number of months," he says. "These Styrofoam docks are going to be littering into the bay for months. Go in the water and look: Every time a wave comes up, it beats the Styrofoam, and part of the dock falls off. It's the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen."

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