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Corpus Christi Region Awarded $1M to Fight Nurdles

A lawsuit over the federal Clean Water Act has resulted in a $1 million award to help keep plastics out of Coastal Bend waters. Jace Tunnell, a research scientist at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, received the award on behalf of Nurdle Patrol, a nonprofit he founded a year ago to fight pollution from plastics. The money comes from a $50 million settlement in a lawsuit against Fromosa Plastics Corporation, which was charged with polluting Texas waters.

Nurdle Patrol is a citizen science project led by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at UTSMI. Tunnel is executive director of the reserve. The Nurdle Patrol objective is to gather and report information about where small plastic pellets, or nurdles, are washing up on beaches.

The basis of everything plastic, nurdles absorb chemicals in the environment and are harmful to marine animals and birds that see them as food. Volunteers as asked to find a high tide line that contains nurdles; collect them for 10 minutes; write down the number, location, and date; take a photo; and submit the information to on a smartphone or computer. The information is recorded and instantly shows up on a map.

Nurdle Patrol, which just launched a new website, has been largely funded by donations from 11th Hour Racing, an international sailing group.

According to Tunnell, since the organization was founded, more than 1,000 volunteers have cleared nurdles from 1,200 spots along the Gulf of Mexico, most around manufacturing sites. Galveston Bay has the highest concentration with about 30,000 nurdles recorded in a 10-minute time period. Port Aransas compares favorably to that count with only 20-50 pellets found over the same time period.

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