By Fredrica Syren:
Once Subway cars are no longer usable, some of them are recycled for scrap metal; but since 2001 2,580 retired cars have been dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. When I first heard of this, it made my blood boil. (I mean, I’m so darned tired of our ocean becoming one large dumpsite for waste!) But when I heard that these old subway cars actually are part of an environmental effort to create artificial reef habitats for fostering sea life — well, that peaked my curiosity for sure.
The goal is for the cars, which are stacked on top of each other on the ocean floor, to act like a reef and serve as breeding grounds for marine organisms such as shrimp, mussels and crabs that attach themselves to hard surfaces. The newly spawned life creates food for other sea dwelling animals, and also serves as protection against predators and fosters a healthier habitat overall.
Normally, the seabed of the U.S mid-Atlantic coast is nothing but bare sand, which does not attract much marine life. There are hopes that the new reef will become the home to species like black sea bass, summer flounder and tautog that, in turn, will attract marlin, tuna and dolphins.
So before dumping the cars into the ocean, they are stripped of floating materials as well as any environmentally hazardous materials, including PCBs and petroleum lubricants, and then steamed cleaned. Then the 18-ton stainless steel cars — minus their wheels, windows, seats, oil and doors — are carried out to sea by ship.
This program of retired subway cars recycled into reefs is, so far, ongoing off the coasts of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland.
Of course there is no proof this program actually will be successful. Several environmental groups have voiced their concerns over whether or not the program will be really effective in increasing the breeding of fish; whether it will just attract already existing marine life to a particular place; and whether there are possible dangers of the project, such as hazards for divers and the fact that the cars contain asbestos that possibly could leak into the water.
One of these reefs is the Redbird Reef, located of the coast of Delaware, which is compiled of 714 subway cars from New York City. So far, it has been successful and actually has increased marine life 400 times.