FOL Curacao leads Earth Day coral reef clean-up Published April 21, 2008 By Capt. Ashley Norris 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron Public Affairs FORWARD OPERATING LOCATION CURACAO, Netherlands Antilles -- Thirty-two members of Forward Operating Location Curacao, Netherlands Antilles celebrated Earth Day a few days early on Saturday by organizing a community reef clean-up and removed 1,500 pounds of debris from the Piscadera Beach coral reef. This is part of an ongoing project organized by members of the 429th Expeditionary Operations Squadron and members of the surrounding community to clean up the reef. They have already had three reef clean-up events since December and to date have collected 8,000 pounds of debris to include tires, carpets, beach chairs, bottles, yard chairs, Christmas lights and construction debris. Colonel Olson, commander of the 429th EOS and an adamant scuba diver, organized the event. "This is a community event in which we all get together to clean the reef. The Hilton hotel is providing a free lunch for all the participants and the dive shops [Ocean Encounters and Diversity] are providing free oxygen tanks." Several days beforehand 24 five gallon plastic drums were strategically placed around the clean-up area to be used as lifting containers. On the day of the event divers will connect large debris to the drums with a rope, fill the drums with air from their oxygen tanks and let it float to the surface. The containers will then be collected by snorkelers and boats and taken to the beach for disposal. "This dive was a great success," said Colonel Charles Olson. "I can already tell that we've made an impact. The areas that we cleaned up in December now have more marine life in them and some coral are starting to grow back." The clean-up has also improved the life of a Hawksbill Sea Turtle, which lives in the coral reef, that FOL members genially call the Junkyard Turtle, said Colonel Olson. "Taking care of the environment is important. I'm thankful to help and enjoyed what we did here today", said Senior Airman Phil Smith, a firefighter with the New York Air National Guard 107th Air Refueling Wing. "The garbage down there is unbelievable," said Nolo Ambrosi, owner of Ocean Encounters dive shops, which supported the event. "Thank you for doing this, I would like to make this a recurring event with the FOL's help." "I consider the reefs here [in Curacao] their national treasure," said Colonel Olson. "What we throw into the ocean stays in the ocean," he said, "so I decided to use the influence of the FOL to inform the Curacao community on the problem underwater, and educate them on environmental awareness." Many residents don't see the trash or the impact it has on the marine life. "Hopefully this will bring awareness of the problem and they will protect their reefs for the future generations." Earth Day is held annually on April 22 and is a time to reflect on what has been done to help and hinder the environment. It is also meant as a day for communities to unite and take action to clean up areas that have been polluted. The community reef clean-up brought together 32 members of the FOL and 19 locals. There are already plans to organize more clean-ups later on this year, said Colonel Olson. For more information on Earth Day go to: www.earthday.gov.