Metal shards, hidden again by the sand, remain hazard at Tracking Station beach
Shards of sharp, rusted metal protruding at low tide from Tracking Station beach behind Florida Institute of Technology’s Vero Marine Laboratory are still a potential menace after being blanketed again – at least for the moment – by wave-washed sand.
The beach hazards came to light two weeks ago when a reader alerted Vero Beach 32963 that dangerous metal spikes and pipes were sticking up out of the sand near the shore, in a perfect position to cause serious injury if a swimmer or surfer stepped or stumbled on them while they were hidden beneath the waves. The spikes are long enough to go completely through a person’s foot.
The metal structures were not put in place by FIT, but County Coastal Engineer James Gray says the university is responsible for removing them.
After being contacted by this paper and Gray, FIT sent a crew out to remove the hazards last week. Men with shovels dug a deep pit on the beach and removed a PVC pipe structure near the metal hazards but were unable to locate the metal spikes and pipes.
The university has now applied to Florida Department of Environmental Protection for permission to do more extensive excavation to find and remove the remaining hazards.
The letter indicates FIT has been aware of the hazards for months, and says they have not been removed before now because “ideal conditions (for removal) did not present themselves to us during the season of November 1 to Feb 28/29.”
Now, removal is complicated by the onset of turtle nesting season, which imposes a wide range of restrictions on beach activities.
In his letter to FDEP, Rob Ghiotto, FIT’s associate director of facilities operations, requests “permission to continue our approach (to attempting removal of the hazards) into turtle nesting season, especially in regard to the rusted projections seen in the photos.”
Greg Tsark, Florida Tech’s vice president in charge of facilities, said the facilities crew is operating under the assumption that the rusted metal is part of a network of intake pipes that were once used to draw sea water into tanks at the marine station.
But with a long history of different uses of the facility, the piping may well pre-date the college taking over the site. Only digging the metal up will reveal the true nature of what is under there.
According to Ghiotto, FIT’s plan is to hand dig around the buried structures and build a plywood cofferdam to keep back sand and water, de-water the area with a sump pump, and cut off and cap the metal hazards six inches below the water table “if and when low sand, daylight hours, low tide and calm seas occur simultaneously.”
In the meantime, the spikes and pipes seem likely to continue to appear and disappear near the shoreline, sometimes exposed to view, sometimes hidden beneath the waves. Beachgoers walking or swimming near the area behind the Vero Beach Marine Lab should take care not to step on the jagged metal.