Do Your Part For National Clean Beaches Week
It’s no coincidence that National Clean Beaches Week, July 1-7, falls during the first big vacation week of summer, when thousands of families are putting their toes in the sand and ocean.
As visitors flock to New Jersey’s 127 miles of coastline, they’ll find safe, clean beaches – and some of the nation’s cleanest waters.
A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that New Jersey ranked third out of 30 coastal states in beach water quality in 2013, as measured by the amount of bacteria found in water samples. The report, “Testing the Waters,” also named seven New Jersey beaches to its list of 35 American clean water “Superstars”!
New Jersey’s sands are in great shape, thanks in part to legions of beach-loving volunteers.
Twice a year – in the spring and fall – the nonprofit Clean Ocean Action coordinates massive “Beach Sweeps” up and down the coast. Volunteers ranging from young children to senior citizens pick up thousands of pieces of litter and debris washed ashore by the sea, blown in by the wind or carelessly dropped by visitors.
In 2013, more than 325,000 pieces of litter were collected in the beach sweeps. Not surprisingly, the majority was plastics of various types.
Clean Ocean Action ‘s “Dirty Dozen” list of worst offenders includes broken bits of plastic, bottle caps and lids, cigarette filters, food and candy wrappers, plastic straws and stirrers, foam pieces, lumber, plastic shopping bags, glass pieces, glass beverage bottles and cigar tips.
This stuff is not only ugly to look at, but the plastics can be lethal to fish, birds, dolphins, turtles, whales and other creatures living in and near the sea. Plastics don’t biodegrade; they just break into smaller bits that can be mistaken for food, with tragic consequences.
Many of the items picked up in the 2013 sweeps may be attributable to Superstorm Sandy, which smashed apart hundreds of coastal homes and dispersed their contents far and wide. Broken furniture, kitchen appliances, window panes and construction materials all ended up on the beaches and in the water.
Kudos to Clean Ocean Action and the volunteers who sweep the beaches each spring and fall so the rest of us can enjoy clean sand and water all summer!
You can help our beaches and waters – and you don’t have to wait for a scheduled sweep! Here are some simple things you can do:
- Leave only footsteps on the beach. If you carry it in, carry it back out with you.
- Don’t use the beach as an ashtray. Never leave cigarette butts in the sand; they don’t biodegrade and are toxic to marine animals.
- Teach your children (or other young people in your life) well. Walk along the beach with a bucket and pick up litter. It’s a great lesson.
- If you’re a fisherman, be sure to get rid of broken fishing line safely. Don’t leave it where it can blow away and entangle wildlife.
- Use public restrooms to keep ocean and bay water sanitary.
- On or off the beach, do your part to reduce stormwater runoff pollution. Pick up pet wastes and don’t over-fertilize your lawns and gardens. Pollutants washed by rain into local streams will eventually find their way to the ocean.
- If you spot anything unusual in the water – like an oil or garbage slick, red tide, fish kill, or entangled or injured animal – report it to lifeguards, beach patrols or police.
- Support land preservation efforts in watersheds that flow into the ocean and bays. Protected river and stream corridors mean cleaner ocean water!
To find out more about water quality at New Jersey’s beaches – and the list of Superstar beaches – check out the “Testing the Waters” report at http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/nj.asp. To learn more about Clean Ocean Action ‘s beach sweeps, go to www.cleanoceanaction.org.
The State We’re In
by Michele S. Byers,
New Jersey Conservation Foundation.