Florida tour companies pitch in to remove storm debris from waterways

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A debris-filled waterway in Key West after Hurricane Irma.

A debris-filled waterway in Key West after Hurricane Irma.

When Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane last year, it left behind widespread destruction and a lot of debris in the water.

Though the cleanup started before tour operators’ busy summer season, the debris continues to be a problem.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary developed a cleanup squad, Blue Star tour operators, which is leading cleanups, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So far, eight operators have been involved in the cleanup, with the help of 40 trained Blue Star staffers.

About 2.5 million cubic yards of land-based debris was removed from the area after Irma, but a lot of submerged debris remains, which can pose hazards to navigation, harm marine life and pollute the ecosystem that’s under the protection of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA says.

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