A mysterious yellow plastic strand on the beach of Cape Cod leads to an explosive revelation


She began asking questions when a veteran beach cleanup expert noticed a yellow plastic tube blooming along the outer cape strand.

“I’ve never seen it before,” said Laura Ludwig, director of the Coastal Research Center. Marine debris and plastics program.. “Where are you from?”

In this way, the journey to unravel the mystery like a thread has begun. Ludwig first encountered the tube in September 2021. Long point In Provincetown during beach cleanup. Over the next few days, more plastic was picked on the beaches of Outer Cape Town.

“It was amazing how much was there,” she said in a recent telephone interview.

An example of a plastic explosive shock tube being washed away on the beach after Cape Cod.

An example of a plastic explosive shock tube being washed away on the beach after Cape Cod.

The yellow tube looks like a thin rope and continues to be washed off on the beaches of Cape Cod in lengths ranging from very short (1 mm) to 90 feet. Ludwig said it was found on the beaches of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Orleans, Brewster and Yarmouth. It has also been found on beaches such as Hull and Situate.

“Last week I found my work in Newport, Rhode Island,” Ludwig said.

Where does the Cape Shore plastic washout come from?

So far, more than 2,000 feet of tubes have been pulled from Cape Beach by cleaning the beaches of Ludwig and other volunteer activities.

Picking up beach debris is not an easy task, but determining where it came from can be a daunting task. Due to its sudden appearance, Ludwig thought that the tube must be related to a new situation, perhaps a recent project or anomalous event. She contacted a colleague on the beach wreckage and asked for help with the mystery.

One of those colleagues posted a photo of the tube on Facebook.

According to Ludwig, someone in Britain said it was similar to the material used to blow up rocks in a quarry.

Due to this explosive theory, Ludwig U.S. Army Corps of EngineersCheck if similar tubes are used in projects in this area.

According to Ludwig, the answer was “yes”.

The length of the explosive shock tube next to the Sharpie pen gives an idea of ​​its thickness.

The length of the explosive shock tube next to the Sharpie pen gives an idea of ​​its thickness.

Beach tubing came from Boston Harbor Dredging Project It started in June 2021 and ended in January 2022.

Yellow plastic strands, known as explosive shock tubes, are used to signal explosives. In this case, the explosive was underwater and was placed to break the rock as the harbor’s waterways deepened.

According to Ludwig, the contractors involved in the project have a containment strategy in which a vessel on the surface of the water picks up a tube that floats on the surface of the water, but some may have escaped and mixed with rock debris. ..

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Ludwig said both the US Army Corps of Engineers and contractors are looking for ways to improve the containment of future projects. To address the current situation, Ludwig is working with a corps and contractors to organize beach cleanups along the coastline of Boston Harbor.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to phone messages and emails asking for comments on the debris.

According to a press release from Coastal Research Center“Shock tubes are made of low density polyethylene (the same plastic used to make grocery bags) and are considered safe to the touch of humans, but many parts are birds. And other animals are small enough to eat and can be made to cause health problems when ingested. “

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Cape Cod beachcomers may remember some Similar situation In 2011, when a wastewater treatment plant in New Hampshire accidentally released millions of small plastic discs, many of which ended up on the beaches of the area. Ludwig said he was still finding those discs along Cape Beach.

Ludwig works with the Coastal Research Center and NOAA oceanographers. Northeast Fisheries Science Center At Woods Hole, a drift model that can help predict where the tube will land. She also seeks help from those who find tubing on the beach.

Report on the location and length of the shock tube can be emailed to Ludwig at lludwig @ coastalstudies.org.

“The situation is even worse”: Water quality in Cape Cod is declining, a report from the Environmental Group said.

Over the years, Ludwig has become more concerned about the amount of plastic in the oceans and beaches of our area.

“These are things that never disappear,” she said. “I found a plastic lobster trap tag from the 1990s.”

This article was originally published in the Cape Cod Times: Plastic tubes washed away on the beaches of Cape Cod, likely from Boston

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