The residents of a small North Carolina beach town were less than amused when foul-smelling plastic disks of the Navy's trash began washing up on shore, and now a sailor from the dock landing ship Whidbey Island has owned up as the culprit.

The Navy has a trash compacter that smashes plastics into disks to be stored on board until they can be properly disposed of upon arrival at the next port, home or abroad. But one sailor on Whidbey Island told Navy investigators that standard procedural steps were skipped, and the trash was instead tossed overboard. 

Now the sailor is being disciplined "at the shipboard level," said Ted Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

In late April, residents of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, started finding revolting trash disks washing up on the beach.

"The smell was so bad," one resident told The Virginian-Pilot, adding that she had to keep her dogs from licking the waste. "They smelled like a dumpster. One was leaking nasty garbage juice."

Unfortunately for the hapless Whidbey Island sailor, one of the disks had a document that clearly read "Commander Naval Surface Force." It was only a matter of time before the game was up.

The Navy sent investigators to collect their trash and figure out its point of origin, and within a few days they'd found their culprit.

A Navy representative retrieves compressed plastic disks and an unidentified white barrel that washed ashore during April and May, from a local resident at the Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue Center.

Photo Credit: Theodore Brown/Navy

"When notified of the disks discovery, we immediately began to investigate their origin," Brown said. "On May 19, Navy representatives traveled to the Outer Banks to take custody of the disks to examine them. We found markings on several of the disks confirming that they did originate from a Navy ship.

"The ship was contacted, and a Sailor admitted responsibility for throwing the disks overboard in violation of Navy regulations."

Brown added that the Navy takes this kind of thing seriously.

"The Navy will assess appropriate action with respect to the Sailors involved and take steps to ensure that plastic material is handled in accordance with Navy regulations," Brown said. "The Navy has already distributed a message to afloat units reminding them of the Navy's plastics processing and disposal procedures. The Navy takes environmental stewardship very seriously and by regulation does not allow its ships to dispose of plastic in the ocean."

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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