May 21, 2012 in Features

Do Your Part: Be a green beach bum this summer

Terri Bennett McClatchy
 

Are you one of millions who will enjoy some of the summer sun at the beach? Did you know that some of the choices we make at home and while on vacation can actually contaminate the very same waters we can’t wait to get in?

It starts at home

Even if you live hundreds of miles away from the beach, you could still be polluting our oceans. That’s because what you let go down the drain, or put on your lawn and garden, can actually wind up in the ocean. So what’s a beach lover to do? First, don’t let household hazardous waste get in our water supply. Keep motor oil out of storm drains, properly dispose of pet waste, and make sure grease doesn’t go down the sink. Excess nutrients are another major source of contamination. When we use too much fertilizer in our yards, the excess is picked up by stormwater runoff and dumped into waterways. This nutrient overload causes algae to bloom which removes oxygen from the water.

Be informed about your beach

You might feel a little seasick once you find out how your beach ranks in terms of water quality. High amounts of bacterial pollution accounted for more than 24,000 beach closings and advisories in 2010. Bacterial pollution in beach waters can give swimmers everything from pink eye to hepatitis. Keep track of what is going on at your vacation destination by checking out the National Resource Defense Council’s updated guide or the EPA’s online quality reports.

Take care while you’re there

Taking care of our beautiful beaches doesn’t end once we arrive. I pack a picnic basket filled with snacks in reusable containers and reusable water bottles. When we’re done for the day, I bring it all home. The critical thing is that all the items get disposed of properly and nothing winds up in the water where it can hurt marine life and water quality.


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