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On Board the OSV BOLD: More Than a Thousand Words

2009 February 12
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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 12, 2009

    Incredible! How many tons of garbage/debris have you collected so far?

  2. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 13, 2009

    See the interesting article (El Vocero de Puerto Rico) published about the OSV Bold’s expedition around Puerto Rico

    See link:

    Part of the article:

    Barco de la EPA estudia la calidad del agua en la Isla
    Por Maricelis Rivera Santos
    13 de febrero de 2009 04:00 am
    El barco OSV Bold de la Agencia federal de Protección Ambiental (EPA) llegó a Puerto Rico para que un equipo de científicos realice estudios sobre la calidad del agua, la existencia de partículas de plástico y el estado de los arrecifes de coral y la vida marina, informó el jefe de la misión, Douglas Pabst. (Ver vídeo relacionado)…..

  3. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 13, 2009

    Another article published in the local Puerto Rican media. It even mentions our Greenversations blog! See article below:


    EPA to Study Puerto Rico Waters and Marine Habitat
    By CB Online Staff

    For nearly two weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will study water, reefs and marine habitats in the Caribbean Sea around Puerto Rico.
    Starting Thursday, EPA’s ocean survey vessel, the OSV Bold, will conduct a series of scientific studies aimed at protecting and improving the Caribbean environment in and around the San Juan Bay Estuary, Jobos Bay, La Parguera and other marine areas around Puerto Rico. The ship will also be open to the public when it docks in San Juan Thursday and in Mayaguez next Thursday. On Feb. 23, the Bold will sail to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where its crew will study coral reefs for three weeks.

    “The waters around Puerto Rico are some of the most ecologically significant in the world, so protecting their health is a priority for EPA,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “The state-of-the-art OSV BOLD represents EPA’s commitment to scientific research at the highest level and allows our scientists to collect valuable data that supports the conservation efforts of our partners in the region.”

    Outside San Juan Harbor, EPA scientists will use sonar scanning to establish patterns of where and when dredged materials were discharged to a site at the ocean floor. The San Juan Bay Estuary is the only tropical estuary included in the EPA’s National Estuary Program, established in 1987 to help local communities identify, restore and protect nationally significant estuaries of the United States.

    At several locations around Puerto Rico, EPA scientists, joined by researchers from the University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla, will monitor and analyze marine debris such as plastic, Styrofoam and other common trash. In Jobos Bay, off Puerto Rico’s southern coast, EPA will again use sonar scanning to refine reef maps of the bay. Further west, in reefs off La Parguera, EPA will continue a 2007 study to sample sea bottom, or benthic sediments, which help gauge the reefs’ health.

    At an observation station some 25 nautical miles off Puerto Rico’s southwestern coast, EPA will test sea water to determine its temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen levels, all of which are indicators of water quality. Scientists from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez will work alongside EPA scientists throughout the voyage.

    Wednesday, at the request of the Puerto Rico government, the OSV Bold participated in search and recovery efforts related to the recent plane crash off Puerto Rico’s northwest coast.

    The 224-foot-long, 43-foot-wide OSV BOLD is equipped with state-of-the-art sampling, mapping, and analytic equipment including side scan sonar, underwater video, water sampling instruments and sediment sampling devices, which scientists use in a wide variety of ocean-monitoring activities. The ship is a converted U.S. Navy tactical auxiliary general ocean surveillance ships (T-AGOS 1) class vessel. It can house up to 18 scientists, 19 crew members and remain at sea for weeks as they collect water quality and sediment samples, fish and other organisms. EPA divers working off the OSV BOLD monitor coral reefs, and other sensitive habitats for impacts from pollution. The OSV BOLD operates in the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

    EPA scientists will detail their research and experiences living at sea on EPA’s blog at For more information on the OSV BOLD, visit:

  4. Brenda-EPA permalink
    February 13, 2009

    UPR Aguadilla is doing sampling on marine debris. I will be on board on the next few days and will share more with Greenversations.

  5. Henry I Siegling permalink
    April 20, 2009

    I was in Savannah, GA this weekend and the EPA vessel”BOLD” was moored at the waterfront. I was highly embarrased and taken back by the raggy and dirty US Flag that flew from the super structure. It was raggy and almost indistinguisable due to the smoke from the funnel that had it almost black. It seems to me that the Captain and any United States Vessel should be proud of its flag and flown accordingly. As I recall, “the Captain is responsible for all his ship does or fails to do.” Please correct this.

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