Niagara Gazette

Web Extra

May 1, 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 | Photo Reprints
Web Extra
  • Vader Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • 110720 Walmart.jpg Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 22, 2014

  • Sparring justices find little disagreement at the opera

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed a different view of U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday when she described about her passion for opera, one she shares with Justice Antonin Scalia.

    July 22, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 22, 2014

  • NIA Biz Column art 1 072114 Electric cars will get charge out of new IBEW 237 battery station

    Those who drive electric cars now have a free location to stop and charge their batteries, thanks to a new charging station recently built at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 237 at 8803 Niagara Falls Blvd. Beside offering free charging, the stations gave a class of apprentice electricians a chance to learn how to assemble the stations. "We think it's a great training tool," said Russ Quarantello, a business manager for the union.

    July 21, 2014 4 Photos

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page