Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monitoring Gulf Beaches for Oil and Dispersants

The Emerald Coast Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has been monitoring beach water along the panhandle of Florida since last summer. See their water testing info center for more information.

They have just started on a new venture with a researcher from the University of South Florida to start monitoring the beaches for evidence of oil contamination in the sand.
Read more below.

Surfriders team up with researchers as DEP resumes testing for oil, dispersants

The Walton Sun

Emerald Coast Surfrider Foundation has joined with University of South Florida researcher Rip Kirby in its quest for answers on the conditions of area beaches.

“Surfrider will be joining his team and assisting with his sampling effort,” chairman Michael Sturdivant said at the organization’s February chapter meeting, where he introduced the coastal geologist.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the world's waves and beaches.

Following an announcement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in regards to its stepping up its water testing, the foundation plans to switch much of its testing energies to soil sampling.

“Hopefully we will show the beaches are clean,” Sturdivant said.

The testing is important for the protection of community health and trust, Sturdivant said.

At the meeting, Kirby brought in the “latest and greatest” in fluorescent light technology to show how crude oil that has come into contact with dispersants will glow bright orange when illuminated.

“If the isotopic signature fluoresces in orange and gold, it has Corexit,” Kirby said.

Kirby predicts oil will be impacting the beaches in some form for the next three to five years.

“With our warmer temperatures, we are hoping the bugs will break it down faster,” Kirby said. But his fear is “oil coming onto our beaches by an offshore wave event.”

related article.....

As tourism season approaches, DEP restarts testing:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is once again testing Panhandle beaches.

The last time FDEP conducted tests were Aug. 16.

FDEP “is initiating weekly beach monitoring for polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and DOSS (an ingredient in the dispersant corexit) in water samples in preparation for this year’s swim season," according to an e-mail from the DEP’s Dave Whiting, biology program administrator.

The e-mail, which was provided to The Sun by the local Surfrider Foundation, said “our sampling is being used to help the Department of Health craft protective public health messages or notices.”

It went on to say, “We will be collecting tarballs and sand (from both visibly clean and visibly stained) portions of beaches to determine how the weathering of the oil may have affected its composition, people’s ability to detect it on the beach and their potential for unacceptable exposure.”

The department will also be performing targeted beach sand sampling in "areas of special concern."

The DOH will be in charge of issuing any public health messages in relation to the testing.

“We are hopeful that the public health message will remain the same,” Whiting continued. “Beachgoers should not recreate in areas with oil product too numerous to avoid. By avoiding visible oil, it is unlikely that you will be exposed to unsafe levels of petroleum."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sewage Dumping on Long Island, NY

Update: The Central Long Island Chapter will be hosting another meeting on on March 1, 2011 with the Comissioner of Nassau County Public Works speaking on the sewage dumping in Reynold's Channel and answering questions from the public on what the County is doing to remedy this situation and fix the problems at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

The Central Long Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation hosted a capacity crowd on January 20, 2011 at the Long Beach Public Library. Most of the crowd had turned out to hear Scott Bochner, a local surfer and resident turned environmental activist, speak about his discovery of the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant's illegal dumping of sewage sludge into the local waters of Reynold's Channel.

After Scott started noticing the brown, discolored water in the Bay close to his home he started posting videos of the discharge on YouTube. He then got on the phone and began calling every elected official, local and state health and environmental agency, and members of the press to bring attention to this disgusting and flagrant pollution of the local water ways.

With the help of an online petition and some local media attention, Scott and a group of other like-minded individuals dubbed the Sludge Stoppers, finally succeeded into shaming and embarassing the Nassau County Executive, who is ultimately responsible for this County-run facility, into finally beginning to take some corrective steps to fix what seems like a comedy of errors at the poorly run and neglected sewage treatment plant, something the hollow threats of fines from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation were unable to accomplish.

Scott, the Sludge Stoppers, and other concerned citizens are now keeping a close eye on the County and the plant to make sure the dumping stops and the County follows through on their promises to change the management, fix broken equipment and upgrade the facility and its operations. The energy that was created by Scott's presentation at the Surfrider meeting bred a new citizen task force that will help monitor the plant's activities and push the County to take even more steps to protect the health of its local waterways and citizens, including faster water testing, timely and online posting of water quality data, and public notification of future sewage discharges to protect the people that fish, swim, and otherwise recreate in these waters.

Scott's speech really illustrated the power of one passionate person armed with a video camera and access to the internet to bring on change in the face of long-standing government neglect and abuse.

For more media coverage of this issue check out:

Bay Park Sewage Plant Still Dumping Waste In Fishing Waters

Ad Hoc Group: Stop Dumping Sewage in the Bay

Activists want Bay Park sewage discharges to stop

Monday, February 7, 2011

Santa Monica High School Press Release & Data Displays

The December 2010 rains in California brought the expected stormwater runoff and pollution to area beaches. The students of Santa Monica High School’s Teach and Test Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program recorded high bacteria levels in their beach water samples and did their best to get the word out. They put together the below press release as well as continued to post their results using the "Safe to Surf" water quality boards they have posted at nearly a dozen local surf shops and other businesses. These students are doing a great job at keeping people talking about beach water pollution issues and raising the visibility of their water testing program in the local community.


December 23, 2010L

Swim at Your Own Risk!

By Zack Gold

Co-president, Heal the Bay Surfrider Club

Santa Monica High School 601 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405

Student Contact: Zachary Gold

Teacher Contact: Benjamin Kay

Three hours ago, student members of Santa Monica High School’s Teach and Test Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program, sponsored by Surfrider Foundation, removed ocean samples from their classroom incubator to discover super high fecal bacteria levels at all three of their Santa Monica sites: Pico-Kenter and Santa Monica Pier storm drains as well as Lifeguard Station 26. Students collected the samples 24 hours earlier on Wednesday to determine the level of Enterococcus bacteria, a bacteria found in human and mammal feces, and one used as an indicator of ocean health and human risk by Los Angeles County.

The mean values of Enterococcus bacteria for Lifeguard Station 26, Pico-Kenter, and Santa Monica Pier ocean sites were 1193, 1414, and 2240 colony forming units per 100 mL, respectively. The state’s acceptable levels for Enterococcus colony forming units is 104. Thus, student data show the water quality is over 10 times worse than the state’s acceptable level, indicating very polluted water quality and an increased risk to beachgoers.

Zack Gold, co-president of the Heal the Bay Surfrider Club and student leader of the Teach and Test program explained, “The water quality results for bacteria from this week’s sampling were absolutely appalling. We should never have fecal indicator bacteria levels 10 times higher than the state's acceptable level. We know for sure that the chances of getting sick increase greatly when it rains, yet I saw lots of surfers at Lifeguard Station 26 and at Pico Kenter storm drain in the disgusting water. The trend in our data is pretty clear – about 10 months of good water quality during the dry season followed by spikes of Enterococcus in the wet season and with this heavy rain we definitely got a spike."

Benjamin Kay, Marine Biology teacher at Santa Monica High School and club advisor said: “It’s a plastic-laden bacterial soup out there. I checked out the surf at Santa Monica Beach this morning, and plastics were strewn all over the sand near the water. My students’ research confirmed why health officials say to stay out of the surf for 3 days after a rain. I gambled and surfed some very enticing waves, and now have a minor earache. Coincidence?”

Teach and Test students inform over 10 local surf shops and other businesses about their results on a weekly basis. Stores then post the results using their “safe to surf?” water quality boards that the students helped make and distribute with Surfrider Foundation.