Volunteering to help NYC waterways Op-Ed

| 24 May 2016 | 10:31

Many people believe that climate change is a major problem but not as many people realize the magnitude of the worldwide water pollution dilemma. For example, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) has a website that tracks the size and location of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which are huge swaths of plastic and other debris in the Pacific Ocean as well as smaller patches that spread far and wide.

Floatable debris is waterborne waste material that floats. Styrofoam, cloth, wood, glass, rubber, metal and medical wastes are categories of floatables. Fish, birds and turtles might ingest these items or get tangled in them. Raw sewage from combined sewage outflows is also considered floatables.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection Citywide Floatable Control Program devised a study to provide and evaluate the information collected. A Volunteer Beach Floatable Survey Program was established to compile information by utilizing surveys. Data was collected from “man-made” waterborne waste only. Natural debris was not included in the survey. Upland debris was also not recorded and volunteers were instructed not to pick up or touch any debris, particularly any medical waste. The survey area encompasses a 200-foot section of beach or shoreline.

Volunteers do not perform beach cleanups.

Some recent studies find that levels of plastic debris in the ocean will continue to increase in the next decade. Plastics are difficult to document, slow to degrade and become toxic bite-size particles for marine life that bio-magnify up the food chain.

In New York City we are making significant strides in waste management and reducing floatables that have been documented by this program since 1998. However, since plastics in city waters remain the dominant floatable, 58% according to our 2014 report, and 55% in our report during 2015, we have significant work to do. DEP needs your help in order to be aware of potential floatable problems as early as possible. The NYCDEP Volunteers Monitoring Program is an inexpensive way to help in the effort to keep DEP informed so that it “doesn’t happen here”.

Get out to your favorite shoreline and water location to have fun, help monitor for debris and weather in only 20 minutes per week from May to October. You may even make your day by seeing a jumping fish, horseshoe crab or even a dolphin! Volunteers will receive all materials necessary for monitoring, including letters of authorization and acknowledgement. If you have any questions, please contact: Robert Gans, Volunteer Beach Floatable Program Coordinator at (212) 889-4216, cell (917) 658-2380 or email ozonelayerllc@me.com