Mysterious garbage-filled plastic disks that
washed up on northern Outer Banks beaches over the recent Mother’s Day
weekend had been thrown overboard by sailors on a Navy ship, the U.S.
Navy said in a statement issued Thursday.
Ted Brown, installations and environmental public
affairs officer at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said in an interview that
two sailors threw 45 to 60 of the disks off the Navy vessel U.S.S.
Whidbey Island several days before they started showing up on the Outer
Brown declined to speculate on the sailors’
motivation. He said that discipline will be handled on the ship, but
that he could not elaborate on potential punishment.
“The Navy will take appropriate action,” Brown said.
The 20-inch diameter disks are clear plastic
circles, partially melted, filled with multi-colored trash, such as
plastic soda bottles and empty food packaging. The compressed
disks are produced by machinery on Navy ships to allow plastic waste to
be stored on board and are supposed to be properly disposed of after
the ship returns to port.
At least 40 of the disks, many of them broken and
smelly, were found on beaches in Carova, the off-road community on the
northernmost end of the Currituck Outer Banks. Another half-dozen or so
were also found about 40 miles south on beaches in Kill Devil Hills.
According to its statement, the Navy immediately
began to investigate after being informed of their discovery on the
Outer Banks. On May 19, Navy representatives picked up disks that had
been retrieved from the beach so they could be examined. Markings on
the disks confirmed that they had originated from a Navy ship.
“The ship was contacted, and a Sailor admitted
responsibility for throwing disks overboard in violation of Navy
regulations,” the statement said. “The Navy takes environmental
stewardship very seriously and by regulation does not allow its ships
to dispose of plastic in the ocean.”
The Navy recovered 19 disks from the Outer Banks,
Brown said, but deputies from the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office had
already brought an unknown number of the disks to the landfill.
Brown said that the Navy has issued a reminder to its operating units about its policies on trash disposal.
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