Friday, December 21, 2018

New Faux Piling for our Piling Tank

One of our tanks in the aquarium represents how animals and algae can grow even on human-made substances, such as pilings under piers. While this is true, our current “piling” is made of wood and could be misinterpreted to represent creosote-treated wood pilings.

Creosote is a substance comprised of over 300 chemicals that are used to preserve the wood (read: protect it from decay, insects, etc.). There have been many efforts to remove and replace all creosote-treated wood from the water due to its terrible environmental effects. The preservative is toxic to organisms that ingest it or even live in its proximity.

 When the waves and salt water break down the wood, small pieces of debris containing the creosote can be ingested by the animals living around it. Additionally, the chemicals in creosote are even more likely to leach into the water when exposed to ultraviolet light (i.e. sunshine).

Many organizations, including the Washington Department of Natural Resources, have made large efforts to remove all creosote-treated wood from the ocean. The Puget Sound Partnership was launched in 2007 with the mission of cleaning up the Puget Sound by 2020. The PSP’s Action Plan includes creosote removal because of its adverse effects on the environment.

Here at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, the wood piling in our Aquarium is, of course, not treated with creosote. However, it is slowly starting to break down, and we would like to showcase a piling that is not harmful to the wildlife, has the appropriate pH, and supports the natural animal life that would occur in our Salish Sea.
Marley, AmeriCorps member, and Ali, PTMSC Aquarist,
with the new piling before it was lowered into the water. 

After a lot of research on the best method and recipe, we cooked up our own piling that we hope will fulfill our requirements! The cylinder is a mix of crushed oyster shells, concrete, and foam. We added the foam so that the faux piling would be a maneuverable weight, while still being negatively buoyant to sit on the bottom of the tank without floating.

 After curing for a couple of days, we tied it off the side of the pier to hang in the water. This will allow it to finish curing and maybe start growing some new small organisms before we place it into the tank. It will hopefully go into the tank in early spring!

If you see a wood piling or a piece of wood that you suspect may be treated with creosote, you can report it using the MyCoast Washington website or phone app! Check it out here.

Written by Marley Loomis, Americorps Aquarium Educator

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