SAN LEANDRO, Calif., Oct. 28 (UPI) — A program to get plastic debris known as nurdles out of San Francisco Bay is the first of its kind in the nation, environmental officials said Friday.
The EPA and state and local water-quality agencies want to rid the bay of small plastic pellets that can be fatal when eaten by scavenging fish and birds.
“Nurdles may sound harmless, but these small plastic pellets can do great damage to bodies of water like San Francisco Bay,” said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “To protect our water resources, the EPA is partnering with the state to require manufacturers to take steps to prevent pellet spills.”
Nurdles are a pre-production form of plastic that winds up in storm drains when spilled at factories or while they are being unloaded from rail cars, the EPA said in a written statement. From there, they are washed into the bay where marine animals consume them.
“The plastic does not break down quickly, displaces food in the animals’ stomach, and can lead to starvation,” the EPA said.
The program’s first clean-up effort will take place on the next high tide at the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro. A crew will use a large pool skimmer to collect the nurdles.
The Oyster Bay clean-up is being paid for by four companies deemed responsible for allowing their stray nurdles to get away. Officials are inspecting other plastics manufacturers in the Bay Area and in Southern California, the EPA said.