Recently, Lake Samish residents spent a rainy week out on the water gathering litter – but not the traditional plastic bottles, aluminum cars, or food packaging. These neighbors were picking up Styrofoam. The Styrofoam blocks were used as dock floats and had broken loose over the years as old docks fell into disrepair. This kind of plastic is not only an eyesore but also an environmental problem. It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that can resemble food to fish and birds. If ingested, it can lodge in the digestive system of the animal, causing trauma or death.
The Lake Samish Association (LSA) came together with Whatcom County and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to remove 40 yards of Styrofoam from around the lake. The association created a plan to remove the Styrofoam, and Whatcom County Health Department and Whatcom County Public Works worked together to coordinate and fund the disposal. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife allowed the project to use its public boat launch to stage the dumpster.
Earlier this year, lake residents cruised around the lake and took pictures of Styrofoam chunks before vegetation grew in. They identified more than 20 locations around the lake where large, derelict Styrofoam pieces existed and obtained property owner’s permission to remove it.
During the month of May, a team of volunteers carefully moved the Styrofoam and bagged it to prevent further breakup of the waterlogged pieces. The group constructed a floating platform out of two stand-up paddle boards and plywood tied together that was affectionately called the STB.1 for Styrofoam Transportation Barge. The Styrofoam was towed to the boat launch, loaded onto a boat trailer, and then hauled to a staging area away from the shoreline. Next, a volunteer with an excavator lifted the material into the dumpster.
“I’m proud of the LSA and the Lake Samish community for coming together to see this project through,” said Derek Buse, LSA President. “It’s in our mission to enhance life on the lake and I can’t think of any better example of our mission at work.”