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Discarded toilets, tires found on sea floor

May 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A clean-up effort to remove hundreds of toilets and tires from the sea floor in Malibu is underway."I have never seen anything like this," said commercial diver/fisherman Mike Neil. "As a commercial diver, like we are, you want to go out and you want to feel like you are the first one there. You want to feel like you are the first one to experience Jacques Cousteau's silent world. To go down there and see a landfill is gross."

More than 100 toilets were reeled in off the coast of Malibu, near Point Dume. An estimated 200 toilets are still out there sitting on a reef along with hundreds of tires.

"The reef that we are working on is the only reef in Malibu that goes from tide pool to deep water," said commercial diver/fisherman Glenn Dexter. "It is a highway that lobsters and other animals migrate back and forth on, and the pile of toilets is right in the middle of it."

"It essentially smothers the reef," said Kirsten Gilardi, U.C. Davis Wildlife Center. "Nothing wants to live there or grow there. These guys say that if you go 100 yards in either direction on a natural reef there is just tons of life. Where the toilets and tires are there is nothing."

Dexter discovered the toilets three years ago. The clean-up effort is coordinated by the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project through U.C. Davis.

They are used to removing nets and traps that might entangle and trap animals, but never toilets. The divers believe they were dumped there from a barge.

"People think of the ocean as our gigantic toilet," said Gilardi. "So it feels good to be pulling toilets out of the ocean."

Crews were back in the water Wednesday morning retrieving more toilets. Their goal is to have all of the toilets removed by the end of the week. They hope to have all of the tires removed by the end of next week.

At that point the reef can begin its recovery process. Experts say that could take two years.


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