OCEAN CITY — After a local surfer and environmental advocate documented significant beach and ocean pollution from an oceanfront roofing project last weekend, clean-up is underway but it doesn’t appear there will be any enforcement action taken.
Last Saturday, local surfer and Assateague Coastal Trust Communications Manager Billy Weiland was checking the waves at 46th Street when he observed thousands of pieces of construction foam and other Styrofoam debris blowing from an oceanfront condominium roofing project. Weiland captured still images and video of the debris blowing from the building rooftop and across the dune and beach and into the ocean.
“I was up there to check the waves and noticed huge sheets of white Styrofoam blowing over top of me, across the beach and out into the water,” he said. “I turned around and couldn’t believe the ridiculous amount of construction material blowing off the oceanfront condominium on 46th Street.”
Weiland quickly captured still images and video of the roofing debris blowing across the dunes and beach and into the ocean. He reported the apparent pollution violation to Ocean City officials.
“I mean, this wasn’t a couple of pieces of foam,” he said. “We had a 20- to 25-knot offshore wind that was sweeping this stuff from the roof and out onto the beach. I know some of my friends out in the water were paddling through all of the chunks of foam that ended up there.”
Weiland reported the incident to town officials, who arrived on site and inspected the situation. City Engineer Terry McGean said this week it was a roofing project and not an Exterior Insulated Finish Systems (EIFS) project. EIFS, most commonly known by the trade name Dry-Vit among others, is commonly used on construction projects.
McGean said this week the contractor quickly responded and began cleaning up the debris, at least what was still on site, and that relatively quick response would likely preclude any further enforcement action provided the contractor follows up with more extensive remediation efforts.
“They cleaned most of it up the same day,” he said. “They still need to come out and rake. It was a roof replacement, not the normal EIFS install. The wind got away from them during the tear-off process. Given the fast response, I do not envision any additional enforcement provided they complete the cleanup was required.”
EIFS are desirable in the construction industry because they can easily be adapted to fit unique architectural features on new buildings and are generally the most cost-effective insulation systems. What is not desirable, however, are the frequent “snowstorms” of plastic pellets that carry through the air and settle on adjacent properties, the dunes, the beach and in the waterways.
To that end, Ocean City officials in 2017 passed an ordinance in an effort to contain EIFS pollution beyond the previously existing littering ordinance. The amendment to the town’s building code requires contractors to use best management practices to contain snowstorms of Styrofoam pellets or run the risk of having a project shut down until in comes into compliance. The incident last week was the result of the roofing project and not an EIFS insulation project under which the fairly new ordinance would apply.
Nonetheless, despite the contractor’s willingness to quickly clean up the debris, the damage to the surrounding environment might have already been done according to Weiland, who said he observed on roofing company employee picking up debris and putting it into a trash bag on that same day.
“At that point, that kind of response was not really going to do much,” he said. “Based on the amount of foam that had blown off the roof, it was beyond the ability of somebody to simply go out and clean up the beach. That foam scatters everywhere once it’s out in the open, and in just the short time I witnessed this, much of this was already blowing down the beach and out into the water.”