Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hundreds of NYC Subway Cars Becoming Reefs in New Jersey


September 19, 2007

TRENTON, NJ -- Some 600 New York City subway cars will spend the rest of their days down the shore as artificial reefs.

The decision by state Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson was eagerly anticipated by fishermen and divers excited about the fish the subway cars will attract.

But some environmentalists are wary, saying the subway cars contain potentially hazardous materials.

It's not the first time old subway cars were scuttled off the New Jersey coast to create artificial reefs. In a memo issued Monday, Jackson cited studies that have found no effects from asbestos in an older generation of subway cars sunk at sea a few years ago.

``Of course, we've got to wait on New York to clean up the cars'' before they can be placed on reefs, Thomas P. Fote, legislative chairman for the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, told the Asbury Park Press for Wednesday's newspapers.

Tim Dillingham of the American Littoral Society said there are better alternatives than old subway cars.

``New Jersey's artificial-reef program should only utilize the highest quality materials. There are unanswered questions about the integrity of the subway cars,'' he told the newspaper.

Environmental groups objected when the DEP accepted hundreds of 1960s-vintage subway cars from the MTA several years ago, particularly after they learned the cars had fireproofing materials that contained asbestos.

That prompted then-DEP commissioner Bradley M. Campbell to say the agency would accept no more until it had studied the issues of longevity on the sea floor and whether the asbestos could pose any hazard.

Jackson cited a South Carolina case in which subway cars hosted dense communities of marine life after only 10 months under water. She also noted a three-year study by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife showing each subway car hosted 323 reef fish. This included black sea bass, tog and cunner, The Press of Atlantic City reported.



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