TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - It looks a little bit like snow flurries, but it could be a really big problem if it's not cleaned up soon. Plastic foam pellets are floating around Ybor City.
"I thought it was snowing at first, but then it's April," said Paul Rabaut, an environmental science expert who noticed the foam last week. He knows how much of a problem it could be.
"Styrofoam takes many, many, many centuries to go away," he said. "It doesn't break down very fast."
These beads and chunks of polystyrene foam dropped off from the construction site of a new boutique hotel in Ybor City on the north side of 7th Avenue between 14th and 15th streets.
One of the companies partnering on the project, Batson-Cook, is aware that styrofoam is floating around the nearby areas. It's a part of the insulation on the outside of the building and is commonly used in construction projects.
The company says workers are dedicated to catching the pieces and cleaning it up, but late last week, the wind picked up the foam and it's been around ever since.
Rabaut is concerned it will stick around for a long time to come.
"These little things, they get into our waterways and they hurt businesses, as well as people, fish eat them, they die, they digest them," he explained. "Birds can sometimes eat so much of this plastic that it takes up all the room inside of their stomach and there's no more room for food, so they kind of die of starvation with a full stomach, because it's full of plastic."
Baston-Cook says it is taking additional measures to keep the foam away from surrounding areas. Rabaut says cleaning this mess up is almost impossible.
"I mean, there's really no way you can physically clean up every one of these little pellets," he said. "I think the best idea is to not create this in the first place."
Batson-Cook says it would like to have the foam cleaned up by day's end.
A city of Tampa code enforcement inspector is expected to visit the site Friday. FOX 13 called the city for comment, but so far no one has returned our call.