Americans have an enduring love affair with the beach, migrating in the millions every summer to bake their bodies and restore their minds at the ocean's edge. With our minds on fun and recreation, it's easy to overlook how fragile the beach environment really is, until we encounter trash or a beach closed from water pollution. Ironically, our nation's coastal areas are almost too popular- - the sheer number of people visiting the coast or living nearby inevitably impacts the environment. Maybe it's time for us to give something back to the beach.
One way to do that is to get involved in volunteer clean-up, monitoring, and environmental protection programs. Every September, the International Coastal Cleanup attracts volunteers at coastal locations around the world to pick up trash and marine debris. This year's cleanup will be held Saturday, September 15, 2001. Consider making a trip that combines fun and a few hours of work to keep your favorite beach or waterway healthy. It's easy to find a local beach, lake or river cleanup at your favorite spot. By so doing, you'll be supporting the goals of the Coastal Cleanup Campaign, including:
Information collected during the cleanup each year is compared to previous years' cleanup data, and used to report on trends in marine debris. You'll also learn about the sources of marine debris, how prevalent it is, and how you can help prevent the problem. If you ever doubted that marine debris was a problem, you'll find out otherwise at the Coastal Cleanup. The numbers of people involved and the amount of trash they collect are staggering. In 1999, for example, 763,073 volunteers from 77 countries cleaned up almost 8 1/2 million pounds of trash from over 11 thousand miles of beaches and underwater sites. That's right, even scuba divers get involved bringing everything from discarded bicycles to automobile tires off the bottom. For more information, go to www.cmc-ocean.org/cleanupbro/index.php3
We can contribute in other ways by acting responsibly as citizens and recreational enthusiasts. For example, as a boater, you can properly maintain your boat, use pumpout facilities, and operate your boat in a responsible manner to avoid shoreline erosion. Follow all signage to avoid harming sensitive aquatic environments.
Finally, remember it may be worth your while to find out about water quality at your favorite beach, before you or your children go swimming. Although trash is easy to see, it's often pollutants we can't see that cause major health problems, such as sore throats, diarrhea or gastroenteritis. Pollution is often higher during and immediately after rainstorms because runoff may carry sewage overflow. For more information, contact the city, county or other local health officials where your beach is located, or go to www.epa.gov/OST/beaches.
Sources used to create this article include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.