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concre | Help for Homeless Sea Creatures Help for homeless sea creatures Precast concrete units rebuild the aquatic environment Human recreational activity, pollution and natural disasters have destroyed many natural coral reef systems in the world's oceans. Where natural reefs can't rebuild themselves quickly enough to prevent damage to beaches and fish populations, one environmentally sound solution is to build artificial reefs with Reef Balls, dome-shaped hollow concrete balls with holes in them that mimic natural coral reefs. Some ready-mixed and precast concrete producers have gained goodwill and an outlet for waste concrete by becoming, or partnering with, Reef-Ball licensees. Tim Guscette, plant manager at Southdown Inc.'s Concrete Products Division in Sarasota, Fla. (formerly Florida Mining and Materials), notes that it's an excellent way to put to good use ends of loads and rejected loads the company would otherwise have to dispose of. This is because producers like Guscette can cast Reef Balls, somewhat rough and imperfect by design, with almost any waste concrete, as long as it's adjusted with the required admixtures and remixed. "It's a great public relations thing for us to do, as well as a positive thing for the environment," says Guscette. Beach balls to Reef Balls Often, artificial reefs are sunken ships, tires, old train cars or crumbled bridges. Todd Barber, now president of the Reef Ball Development Group Ltd. (RBDG), a volunteer environmental organization, got tired of scuba diving around these trash heaps. Wishing to see more long-lasting, environmentally friendly reefs, he came up with the idea for Reef Balls. Barber and his buddies began by trying to cover beach balls with chicken wire and concrete with the plan of floating them out to sea, popping the balls and letting the shells sink to the bottom. This is essentially how the Reef Ball works. A Reef Ball is made by placing concrete into a fiberglass mold that contains a central inflatable buoy surrounded by inflatable balls of various sizes around which concrete is placed, forming the holes. Though the basic shape is uniform, no two Reef Balls are identical because the holes are placed and sized manually on each form. The internal buoy can be left in place to provide flotation for towing the ball out to sea by boat, then deflated slowly to allow a controlled descent for precise placement by divers. This placement method makes repairs to existing natural reefs possible. It's also possible to deploy Reef Balls by less precise methods such as dumping them off a barge, dropping them from a crane and even flying them out to sea by helicopter. Reef Balls represent only one of the reef-building products available. Pallet Balls, Bay Balls, Lo-Pro Balls and Oyster Balls offer variations on the size and shape. Miniature 6-inch model Reef Balls are also available and make good reefs in saltwater aquariums. Download Original Image
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