Vet Seeking $11 Million to Clean Debris from Broken Piers

With more than 1,800 miles of coastline in Florida, debris washes onshore up daily — everything from plastic bottles to discarded diapers. But Rudy Socha, who says he's a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, is worried about treated wood from piers and docks.

The Ohio-bred, South Carolina-inhabiting Socha has traveled up and down the east coast in hopes of cleaning up beaches and getting rid of treated wood. Socha is the CEO of the nonprofit Wounded Nature-Working Veterans, which provides marine habitat clean up and also employs veterans to aid in clean up.

Though Socha has yet to unleash a team in South Florida due to lack of funding, he is looking to be here within the next year. He is seeking $11 million "to have people working year-round on the coastlines.”  Socha says that he and his team of volunteers wade into areas where the counties and cities don’t provide clean up, areas which would be otherwise overlooked. 

Socha said, “In Florida, what happens is that every major storms you have a lot of wooden marinas and docks in people’s backyards, they get destroyed and then rebuilt. Then they end up washing up in the high tide area and most of it never gets cleaned.”  Much of the wood has been treated with chemicals which are harmful to the environment, he says, as well as the marine life in the area. 

With funding, he could get some boats and to pay the teams who would remain year round, and cover the cost of removal of the treated wood out of the affected areas.

“Once it becomes a major collection point you can’t just send a group of volunteers in for one day. It takes weeks of work in a specific area.” said Socha.

But John R. Fiore, who works in the Parks and Recreation department in Broward County and sits on the Marine Advisory Council, says he hasn't seen a major problem with treated lumber on the beaches or in the Intracostal Waterway. He says he's been doing beach cleanup since 1988, and the water has improved since then in terms of debris, especially since the county goes out of its way to educate thr public and host waterway cleanups.

Fiore says never seen a problem with treated wood in the parks owned by the county, and hasn't seen much of it on the shores. The city obviously cleans up the tourist beaches, and he feels the waterways have become less and less a dumping ground. Also the Florida Department of Environmental Protection puts in place a plan after storms to keep the waterways clean. 

In 2013, Socha pitched the idea of a reality show on which four women could raise $2 million in four days for his organization. 

For more information or to volunteer with the Wounded Nature-Working Veterans program visit woundednature.org.
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Alexandra Herrera