SOUTHWEST HARBOR—Ever since a post was put on social media regarding Styrofoam polluting the beach at Manset Dock, upset people have been letting Southwest Harbor’s new harbormaster, Jesse Gilley, hear about it. Some have even called him on his personal cell phone late at night.
Four floats owned by three different people who have property on Greening Island are the culprits. The floats were victims of a perfect set of storms that rendered them unusable. The last of these broken floats was towed to the Manset Dock on May 12.
“The floats have been out there for years and are completely broken,” said Gilley in an interview with the Islander. “These floats were all in great shape last fall. They winter well, usually. They just had a rough spring as far as weather goes.”
More than one storm blew through and caught the floats in a way that compromised their construction, according to Gilley. “They were securely fastened to their moorings.”
These floats are not small. Constructed with 6- by 6-inch beams as their frame and pressure-treated wood across the top, they have a surface area of about 300 square feet.
“Pressure-treated wood is very heavy,” said Gilley. “You can’t haul something like that out of the water… The barge couldn’t even pick it up.”
But the wood wasn’t as much the issue as the blue Styrofoam that sits under it. During the storms that broke the floats’ boards, the Styrofoam also got smashed, and pieces of it washed up on the shores of Greening Island and Manset.
“Nothing was intentional,” said Gilley, who took action as soon as he heard about the situation. “I had coordinated to take 100,000 pounds of waste out of the water. I was trying to eliminate the potential for more waste on our shores.”
When the broken floats were originally reported at the end of March, Gilley called Scott Grierson, founder of Clean Maine Shores, and the two went to Greening Island on Gilley’s personal skiff to assess the situation. Two of the floats’ owners also took swift action in removing them from the water.
“Took an after hours ride out to the western shore of Greenings Island this afternoon with Harbor Master Jesse Gilley,” wrote Grierson on the Clean Maine Shores Facebook page on March 30. “We retrieved a boat load of styrofoam from floats that had broken apart over the winter. I was pleased to learn that a lot of floats are now built with styrofoam encased in sealed plastic boxes. This should help reduce the volume of foam bits entering the environment.”
There are photos on the Facebook page of the two men sharing space on the skiff with several large, blue pieces of foam. Since then, Grierson has taken several more trips out to the island and collected pieces of the Styrofoam and other trash in large trash bags.
Gilley has focused on getting the floats out of the water and weighing the collected trash in order to accurately bill the owners for the waste.
“We contained the potential mess that this would have created,” he said, adding that he has a personal stake in keeping trash out of the water and off the shores. “Owning an oyster farm, I care a lot about microplastics in the water… Unfortunately, we are always going to have trash and debris wash into this harbor.”