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Plastic Beaches

Skagit Valley Herald

Jan. 12, 2011

The city of Anacortes and Tethys Enterprises signed a 30-year contract with two five-year renewal options to build a water-intensive industrial site that will swallow up to 5 million gallons of Skagit River water per day. Tethys will contract with outside companies to manufacture food and bottled water, sodas, teas and juices on a minimal 30-acre site in a 1 million square-foot building. Environmental questions remain unanswered, including plastic nurdles formed to contain food and beverages.

Plastic nurdles are smaller than a pea, lighter than a seed. They spill from ships, trains and trucks during transport, and work their way into waterways, reaching the ocean. Studies suggest nurdles may be one of the leading constituents of marine debris. Nurdles can carry harmful chemicals that hurt marine organisms. A single nurdle sucks up toxins and can become 1 million times more toxic than the surrounding water. Nurdles can choke small animals, and appear to act as sponges that concentrate pollutants released into the marine environment.

Tethys will import plastic nurdles, forming them into plastic containers. According to CEO Steve Winter, two types of biodegradable nurdles will involve additives or a plant base. Since biodegradable nurdles can cost three times more than petroleum-based nurdles, Tethys’ investors and clients may choose petroleum-based nurdles to increase corporate profits. The Tethys contract states no guarantee of biodegradable plastics.

Nurdles are here. Skagit County Beach Watchers find them on our local beaches. The Plastics Project at the Marine Science Center in Port Townsend is researching the extent of plastics contamination in the Puget Sound region. In 2006, staff members discovered a large amount of plastic nurdles along the high tide line.

I favor no plastic production in Anacortes.

Sandra Spargo, Anacortes, Wash.

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