Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Beach of Shredded Auto Parts

On Portland's western waterfront, between the Casco Bay and Veterans Bridges, lie the remains of a railyard that was abandoned sometime in the late 20th century. Along the collapsing granite seawall on one section is a mound of reddish soil, which, upon further inspection, isn't soil at all, but a finely-ground mixture of old rubber hoses, wire casings, nuts, washers, bits of fiberglass, and plastic.

These look like the remnants of scrapped automobiles that were sent through giant shredders at junkyards, then shipped by rail to this location. But the railyard went out of business, and the barge that was supposed to take them to some distant landfill never came.

So the temporary waterfront landfill became a permanent beach of shredded auto parts. Decades of oceanfront weather eroded the junk even further: now, the rubber is brittle to the touch and the metals are entirely rusted.

The junk has undoubtedly been leaching all sorts of toxic meatals into the adjacent Fore River Estuary for all these years: cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, and other poisons common to our automobiles. Yet, miraculously, a few scrubby juniper and aspen trees have managed to take root on the mound of shredded cars:


Turboglacier said...

I love how you find the most freakish underbelly of our city. It always makes me want to move, but it's fascinating.

C Neal said...

Believe me, places like this one are in every city of any size, anywhere you go on this planet. Needless to say, I'm pretty fascinated by them, but I'm sometimes disappointed that Portland doesn't have more of them that I can explore.

Greg said...

Have you been up Rte 1 into Falmouth recently? Past the shopping plaza. Aside from the inexorable sprawl of office parks, there is site that is either gravel put or they are clearing it for yet another office park. But as they've dug, they have unearthed an awesome rock formation that has very striking veins of various geologic changes. It reminds me of John McPhee's tales of geologists finding the geologic record thru rock formations near highway cuts. You shld check it out sometime.