What a mess

Large blocks of Styrofoam, plastic bottles and other types of debris has collected in piles in a corner of Lake Hancock, a saltwater marsh near Greenbank.

The mess was discovered by a local man who has made it his mission to rid Whidbey Island’s public beaches of debris and garbage, especially materials that are toxic to wildlife.

Recently, while walking on the Teronda West beach just north of Greenbank, Frantz discovered a real mess at Lake Hancock, a 400-acre saltwater estuary owned by the Navy. The lake was a World War II bombing practice site and is now off limits to the public. It is home to a large number of protected birds and other animal species.

Contacted about the mess, a Navy spokesman said the armed service would be cleaning it in April.

“The Navy dedicates April to local environmental projects and we will be cleaning up the debris sometime during that month,” said Tony Popp, a deputy public affairs officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey.

That’s not soon enough for Frantz.

“I will be out there next week taking care of it,” Frantz said. “There will be more storms between now and April. The mess will be worse and spread much further.”

Frantz said he can access the area from the seawall without going onto Navy property.

“I know the Navy will just pick up the larger pieces of debris. The small crumbles of Styrofoam are a real threat too,” Frantz said.

Frantz took Janet Hall and Cheryl May from Island County’s Lighthouse Environmental Program on a tour of the wildlife area. Both women agree it’s a mess, but their hands are tied because Lake Hancock is government property.

“In my five years working on beach cleanup, it’s one of the biggest messes I have ever seen,” said May

May said the broken up Styrofoam looks like food to animals. When fish eat it, it changes their buoyancy, making them unable to dive and more vulnerable to predators. Birds often eat the material, thinking it is fish eggs and starve after filling up on it.

The Styrofoam was likely used to float a dock and wound up in Lake Hancock after breaking up and floating away.

What May’s program can help Frantz do is dispose of the materials once its off private property.

Frantz was granted access to Lake Hancock last year after he identified the wildlife area as being polluted by creosote-impregnated wood. He recently developed a system for removing creosoted pilings from maritime environments and led a creosote cleanup of a sand spit near Deer Lagoon last year.

Lake Hancock is visible from the overlook at Highway 525 just beyond the Greenbank Farm.

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