Topsail Beach becomes first NC town to prohibit certain materials in docks

[Joe Huie photo]

The Town of Topsail Beach has now become the first in the state to adopt an ordinance prohibiting unencapsulated polystyrene docks.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is grateful for the actions taken by the town’s commissioners during their April 13th meeting, without measures like this North Carolina’s coast will continue to feel the devastating effects of marine debris on the environment.

“The banning of non-encapsulated dock floats by The Town of Topsail Beach continues our long-standing policy to protect the resources we have at Topsail. We all need to take steps that will continue to allow our children to enjoy our beaches and marshes while protecting the plants and animals with which we share our island home,” said Topsail Beach Town Mayor Steve Smith.

Polystyrene is a common material used to build floating docks, but the lightweight and inexpensive foam material leaves it vulnerable to heavy damage from storms. A lesson learned from Hurricane Florence in 2018, when thousands of docks and piers were destroyed. When the foam fragments break apart, they are almost impossible to clean up and can cause serious damage to coastal habitats like wetlands and beaches. Since 2019 the Coastal Federation and its partners have removed more than 2 million pounds of marine debris.

Polystyrene is also non-biodegradable, which means it never goes away and many waste management facilities cannot accept that type of material. The Coastal Federation hopes that Topsail Beach’s new ordinance is just the first of many and that this action will pave the way for regulations that will not only protect the environment but also create more sturdy dock construction for coastal homeowners.

“The Town of Topsail Beach has been a tremendous partner throughout our marine debris removal projects, and such a strong voice on how important it is to keep these harmful materials out of our environment. With their ordinance, they are leading the way for other towns and communities in North Carolina to take action to prevent polystyrene from polluting our precious coast,” explained Coastal Advocate Kerri Allen.

The Federation encourages coastal property owners to consider switching to more durable construction materials when building or repairing a dock or pier. “By encapsulating foam in floating docks, it not only helps keep these dangerous materials out of our waterways but also saves the property owner money, lasting far longer than traditional methods,” said Allen.

Learn more about floating docks and marine debris, here.