Severe weather releases plastic beads from Rena

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Small plastic beads littered the beach at Papamoa. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Small plastic beads littered the beach at Papamoa. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Severe weather which hit the Bay of Plenty over the weekend, including swells of up to four metres at Astrolabe Reef, have caused the release of plastic beads from a damaged container in the sunken stern of the Rena.

Sightings of beads have so far been confirmed between Mount Maunganui and Papamoa beaches. Members of the public can report the location of beads by phoning 0800 333 771.

The plastic beads, which measure 2.5 millimetres in diameter, do not represent any significant risk to public health and safety or to wildlife, but are a visual nuisance and can be difficult to remove from beaches.

The shoreline debris recovery operation is concentrating on locating and recovering beads as they wash ashore, using specialist beach cleaning equipment and local labour teams.

Flight surveys of the coastline are also being used to help in the recovery effort.

Rena Project spokesman Hugo Shanahan said: "Having recently removed a large amount of cargo and container wreckage from cargo Hold 4, Resolve had located one of the two containers of beads at the bottom of that Hold, at a depth of approximately 30 metres.

"An initial assessment of the container confirmed that it was partially damaged with its cargo of plastic beads still largely intact. Before work to remove the beads could begin in earnest, however, the situation had to be contained due to the forecast of severe weather.

"Before leaving the site ahead of the weather, Resolve Fire & Salvage made sure the container was covered with tarpaulins, held down by large magnets and 12 tonnes of sandbags, overlaid with protective steel plates," he said.

"The severity of the weekend's weather has apparently dislodged this, and the release of beads is frustrating for all those affected. The immediate focus now is to locate and recover lost beads. Resolve's divers will be back in the water to assess the container of beads as soon as it's safe to do so," he added.

Sightings of beads have so far been confirmed between Mount Maunganui and Papamoa beaches. Members of the public can report the location of any beads by phoning 0800 333 771.

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