Waste tires have been dumped in Washington State's Puget Sound over the years. According to local estimates, some 500,000 tires may need to be retrieved from the sea.

According to environmentalists, the abandoned tires are releasing pollutants into the surrounding waterway, causing harm to flora and fauna.

"It can take four to six years of regular requests for state funding for the 24 sites along the Puget Sound where tires need to be removed," Jim Trask, president of the Washington Scuba Alliance, told local media.

The non-profit alliance employs remotely operated vehicles and sonar scanning technologies to find tires and estimate how many are still floating in Washington's seas. The first stage is to locate the tires; the second is to remove them, which necessitates the use of construction companies and equipment. According to Trask, they must then be transported to a hazardous waste site in Portland.

The problem began in the 1970s, when tires were dumped to create an artificial reef to help preserve the river while also providing breeding and feeding grounds for aquatic life. Over the next 50 years, however, some of the tires began to degrade and leak poisons into the water.

“Zinc, copper, oil-based plasticisers, paints and pigments containing zinc and titanium oxides, and paraphenydiamines (ozone scavengers), are some of the additives leaching from the broken up tires into the water and sediments of Puget Sound. Some of these substances are known to be toxic to aquatic organisms,” a Washington Department of Natural Resources statement notes.

Volunteers can join the Washington Scuba Alliance to help clean up tires and other dangerous items from local waters.

Article by The Bellingham Herald.