On Board the OSV BOLD: More Than a Thousand Words

For more than a month, EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is studying the health of the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EPA scientists and non-scientists will blog about their research and what it’s like to live and work at sea.

February 12, 2009 – (Day 4)

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

When the OSV Bold was deployed Monday to do work along the northern coast of Puerto Rico, all EPA employees on board were asked to place themselves in various observation points throughout the ship and inform our Chief Scientist of any material floating around. About a half an hour into the sail, I spotted with binoculars a big box. The ship circled the item for a closer look and found out it was an old refrigerator floating in the ocean.

According to EPA’s Marine Debris website there are two sources of marine debris. The first comes from land related activities and it includes stormwater runoff and solid waste carried by rivers and streams. The second source of marine debris is from the ocean and it includes waste and trash from other ships and recreational boats, including fishermen.

photo of refrigerator floating in the waterI have been wondering ever since how this refrigerator ended up in the midst of Puerto Rico’s north coast. Could heavy rains have carried it from somewhere up in the mountains to the ocean? Was it not properly disposed of – perhaps just thrown into an illegal dump next to the coast that had eroded with time? We will never know for certain, but one thing is clear – in addition to presenting a navigational hazard, this refrigerator must have leaked all of its contents into the ocean, affecting marine life.

They say a picture says more than a thousands words. From now on, I will bring this picture with me to presentations and let the picture speak for itself.