Waste in the Water Could Have You Sleeping With the Fishes

Environment pollutionIn the wake of a push for environmental conservation, a new “Trash Policy” from the State Water Resources Control Board has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), designed to clear waste from California’s streams, lakes, bays, estuaries, coastal and ocean waters. According to Waste Dive, this new policy prohibits the disposal of trash into state waters by littering through storm drains. Municipalities and other California storm water permit holders will be required to implement full trash capture systems or similar devices, as well as programs for sustainability, such as more street sweeping and even waste management education. The latter would include teaching the “3 Rs” of waste hierarchy: reducing, reusing, and recycling waste properly. The serious concern is how trash in waters destroys the habitats of marine wildlife as the result of contamination or ingestion or when they becoming entangled in it. As much as 80% of the trash that ends up in bodies of water is initially generated on land. This program is expected to not only cut down the waste entering local waterways, but overtime it will reduce the amount of waste reaching the Pacific Ocean. “Trash in our lakes, streams, and the ocean poses a serious threat to fish and wildlife …The good news is that this problem is entirely preventable,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. The City of Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay have seen positive results with similar trash capture approaches. Water bodies in Los Angeles are already nearing the zero trash standard in 2016, with the San Francisco Bay area reaching 40% and expected to reach the same level by 2020. Unfortunately, some California waterways could be experiencing an abnormal surge in trash pollution after heavy storms hit the Los Angeles area, as CBS Los Angeles reports. While the streets may currently look cleaner than usual, it is only because the heavy flow of water washed much of the trash into storm drains and then into waterways. The repercussions are so apparent that even a local fifth grade class determined the presence of hazardous bacteria in the water. As part of the new Surfrider Foundation program, school classes are now being given the resources to measure bacteria, E. coli and enterococcus – microbes that are associated with pathogens along Huntington Beach. After sampling a runoff from the Santa Ana River, they found it had bacteria levels that far exceeded state safety standards. Jeff Coffman, one of the fifth graders’ father, has begun posting their findings online as a part of Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force. He worries that surfers and swimmers don’t realize the magnitude of the dangers posed by waste in the water. “It carries all this bacteria and trash and heavy metals and hydrocarbons and all these bad things, fertilizers, pesticides and it pollutes our ocean,” said Coffman. Experts are now advising local swimmers and surfers to stay out of the water for at least three days after a storm.