The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Community News Network

April 30, 2013

How to minimize the environmental impact of your time at the beach

Even if the weather hasn't quite come around yet, summer is almost here. For many people, that means it's almost time to head - very, very slowly, if you leave on a Friday - to the beach.

For the environmentally conscious, however, a beach vacation is sometimes fraught with guilt. Few places exhibit man's encroachment on nature more clearly than a beach. Turn your back to the ocean, and you see rows of hotels and high-rise condos. Gas-powered jet skis skid across the ocean, and planes drag advertisements through the skies. Seeing trash in the water is depressingly commonplace.

So what can you do to minimize your impact on beaches, without denying your children their fundamental right to boogie board? It turns out that much of what you can do to protect beaches happens before you leave home.

"You live closer to the beach than you think," says Steve Fleischli, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program. "Your drain may lead to the ocean or to a river that leads to the ocean."

Have you ever noticed a large pipe draining into the ocean at your favorite beach and wondered what comes out of it? For the most part, it's storm water runoff - rain or snow that falls on concrete or paved surfaces, then finds its way into a drain and out to the beach. Whatever the water encounters on its way into that drain can make its way to the ocean.

"Pick up after your pet," Fleischli recommends. "Don't over-water and fertilize your lawns. Try to retain water on-site at your home with permeable surfaces rather than letting it drain down the driveway. And water your grass, not the sidewalks or street."

And once you're at the beach, stay away from those storm drains. The warm, calm pools of water that accumulate at the end of those pipes may be tempting, especially to children, but Fleischli recommends staying at least 50 yards away from the drains.

The NRDC reported that 8 percent of water samples collected from beaches in 2011 exceeded national standards for harmful bacteria. Storm water runoff was the largest known contributor to the contamination.

The good news is that the Mid-Atlantic boasts some of the cleanest beaches in the country, according to the NRDC report. Dewey and Rehoboth beaches in Delaware received the group's highest rating, as did Maryland's Ocean City at Beach 6. At Hammerman beach at Gunpowder Falls State Park in Maryland, however, 15 percent of samples exceeded national standards for bacterial contamination; at the beach in Elk Neck State Park, also in Maryland, 31 percent of samples failed, due largely to increased waterfowl droppings. A spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment says local officials are taking steps to reduce contamination levels at both beaches.

Staying away from drains is the best thing you can do for yourself at the beach, but the best thing you can do for the beach itself is to keep off the dunes. You've seen the signs. Heed them.

"Sandy dunes in barrier islands are a natural protection for the rest of the habitat on the island," says Nick Mallos, a conservation biologist for the Ocean Conservancy. "The grasses and other vegetation that grow there have roots that penetrate into the sand and stabilize the beach habitat." When storms lash the beaches, the dunes keep the sand from sliding into the sea.

Trash, of course, is an obvious eyesore. But beach littering has far-reaching consequences. Mallos says he has seen thousands of dead albatrosses with plastic items such as bottle caps, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes in their stomachs. He recalls seeing a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle trapped in what very likely came from one of the many plastic bags blowing around American beaches. In Mallos's view, it's not enough to throw your trash into garbage cans on the beach, where wind can carry it out of the container and into the sea. Instead, he suggests, take home everything you bring to the beach.

Finally, a word about sunscreen. Researchers have shown that sunscreen can cause coral bleaching, the expulsion of important algae from the hard tissue of a coral reef. Bleaching doesn't kill the reef immediately, but it leaves coral more vulnerable to disease and other stresses. According to some estimates, up to 10 percent of the world's coral reefs may suffer from exposure to sunscreen worn by snorkelers and swimmers. The Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey beaches don't feature significant coral reefs, but if your vacation includes a visit to a coral-studded ocean such as the waters off the Florida Keys, be careful about your personal-care products. Always wear sunscreen, but try to avoid heavily touristed beaches with nearby coral reefs.



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

  • Police Brutality screen shot. Technology plays key part in battling police brutality (VIDEO)

    Allegations of police brutality are nothing new -- as long as there has been law enforcement, citizens have registered claims that some officers cross the line. But in the last few years, the claims of excessive force are being corroborated with new technology from cell phone cameras, police dash-cams and surveillance videos. 

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo