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Environmental advocates concerned over potential problems from coal ash


Two local organizations are sounding the alarm about thousands of tons of coal ash that spilled from a barge stuck off the coast of Atlantic Beach.

The 418-foot Bridgeport barge from Puerto Rico crashed into the jetties back in March.

According to the incident response page, the Bridgeport was able to be refloated Friday and was shifted into shallow waters, about three-quarters of a mile from the original location.

RELATED: Marine biologist, environmental attorney share grave concerns over leaking barge off coast of Atlantic Beach

A recent I-TEAM investigation found at least 9,300 tons of coal ash spilled and is sitting on the bottom of the ocean.

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Jimmy Orth, the executive director of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, said he is concerned about the potential impact this will have on the environment.

“Coal ash contains things like mercury, lead, selenium, chromium, so there’s a lot of really toxic chemicals that we have concerns about potentially entering into the food chain so as the zooplankton and the phytoplankton consume this ash potentially, it moves up the food chain and eventually to the fish we eat that come to the St. Johns River,” Orth said.

The barge got stranded offshore near Hanna Park where Nicole de Venoge, with The Surfrider Foundation, says many people like to surf.

“Despite the fact that it was spewing contaminants, however, they are classified, we are all literally swimming, breathing, when you’re surfing it’s obviously going up into your nose, mouth and so on without any kind of warning or any kind health alert or any kind of transparency,” De Venoge said.

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De Venoge and Orth say this is one example of a problem that needs to be addressed nationwide.

“Coal ash has been a problem in the way it’s not only, obviously, it’s the by-product of burning fossil fuels of coal, and one of the problems is we need to move away from burning coal and looking to renewable sources so we can address this problem as its source and eliminate the problem to begin with,” Orth said.

According to the incident response page, health and safety and protecting the environment are a top priority during the salvage efforts.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.



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