Styrofoam left from Boat Show pollutes water

Posted at 7:47 PM, Mar 29, 2016

The 2016 Palm Beach International Boat Show has come and gone, but environmentalists are concerned about what was left behind.

Manager of the city of West Palm Beach's Sustainability Office, Penni Redford, says styrofoam docks used during the show left debris behind that can be harmful to marine life.

Redford says at the start of the boat show in West Palm Beach, she was tipped off by a group of environmentalists in Miami.

"I went down to take a look and did see some styrofoam, little smaller particles," she said.

The styrofoam docks belong to Show Management, the group of organizers responsible for putting the show together. Redford says she worked with the group to ensure the water was kept as clean as possible throughout the event.

"They had people during the boat show, and then after the boat show with skimmers, cleaning up," she said.

However, Redford says some small pieces were still left behind.

Environmentalists like Tom Warnke, who organizes beach clean-ups, say styrofoam is one of the worst pollutants, because it doesn't break down.

"It never goes away," Warnke said. "Four-hundred years from now, those pieces of plastic, although very small, will still be floating around and be being ingested by seabirds and turtles."

Redford says the city is talking with Show Management about changing the docks for boat shows to come. However, the group already has the same type of docks in place in West Palm Beach's waterfront for SunFest.

A spokeswoman for Show Management says the group is aware of the problem and has been working to fix it. However, she says changing out all of the company's docks is a process that takes time.

Show Management's Senior Vice President, Andrew Doyle, released this statement:

"Show Management is committed to preserving the environment and keeping the waterways clean.  We have a two-pronged approach to address Styrofoam and any other debris in the water. First, in 2015 we launched a multi-million-dollar plan to replace Styrofoam docks with new docks constructed of encapsulated materials that exceed industry standards.  A portion of the docks will be replaced for the 2017 Palm Beach International Boat Show and we expect to have all new, encapsulated docks by 2018. Second, regarding mitigation, we assign clean-up crews in boats and on the docks before, during and after the boat show to remove debris and keep the waters clean.  In addition, going above and beyond what is required of us, we hired an independent environmental consultant, The Chappell Group, to go out on Monday, March 28 and inspect the entire waterway footprint in Lake Worth where the boat show is located and confirm that we cleaned the waterway to the highest standards and that no further clean-up was required."