Oregon Coast Cleanup Finds Plenty of Wacky and Disturbing
(Oregon Coast) - Volunteers around Oregon Saturday removed an estimated 142,231 pounds of trash and recyclables under blue skies for the first time the Oregon Beach Cleanup was combined with the rest of the state’s rivers. Some 6,135 volunteers turned out statewide at 160 sites to participate in SOLV’s big scouring event.
This time, the clean up included not just the Oregon coast but over 100 miles of inland waterways, where 57,685 pounds of invasive plants like English Ivy were removed for watershed restoration projects. There are still 36 more of these projects to report in with their numbers as of Saturday evening.
The clean up uncovered a host of oddities as well, many with rather disturbing implications.
“People from across Oregon and SW Washington should feel proud of their hard work today, demonstrating their continued commitment to a clean and healthy environment,” said SOLV’s Executive Director, Melisa McDonald. “Water connects us all and through participation in both coastal and inland projects, we are improving our quality of life now, and for future generations.”
Some of the most common items found by SOLV volunteers include Styrofoam, plastic caps, lids, bottles and cigarette butts. While these may seem like small, harmless items, cumulatively they pose a large threat to a variety of wildlife including bears, birds and whales that may get tangled in or ingest bits of litter, damaging internal organs and blocking digestion.
Litter is also a concern to human health as sharp items like metal cans or broken glass can cut beachgoers, while disposable diapers and old chemical drums introduce bacteria and other toxic contaminants into the water. Trash tends to travel with rain and storm water down streets and storm drains into waterways and eventually out to sea.
Scientists have discovered an area about twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean where broken down bits of plastic and trash have created a giant garbage patch.
It’s that garbage patch that has some Oregon coast scientists a bit concerned as more plastics than ever have been reported on Oregon beaches this past year, including many items that have originated in Asia – indicating a longer trek than most debris, and implicating the “garbage patch” to some degree.
Weird stuff that made an appearance included lots of car parts, a burned couch, a skeleton of a car, part of a dock, melted glass, a push mower and a 20-foot ladder. McDonald added that among the kooky finds were an old oil drum and lots of pieces of plastic with Asian writing on them from the south coast. One ton of car parts were found in one part of the Rogue River.
Car parts were a problem all over the state, McDonald said.
Other unusual finds this year included a historic dump along Newell creek with an old record player, five car-size blocks of Styrofoam on Sauvie Island, and a plastic cup from the Beijing Olympics on the South Coast near Port Orford.
Everyone reported a lot of plastic bits around the coast, which have been a problem throughout the year on the beaches.
Numbers of volunteers were drastically down on much of the Oregon coast, in spite of the awesome weather – although these figures improved on the north coast. There was speculation that the great numbers of other cleanup events inland prevented some from making the trek to the beach, or that the economy might play a factor.
Dolores Stover ran the Rockaway Beach area clean up, which included the north jetty of Tillamook Bay at Garibaldi to the southern jetty of Nehalem Bay at Nedonna Beach. She estimated there were about 120 people there, markedly down from the spring clean up, which had 240 volunteers.
Stover said there weren’t any reports of anything too unusual found on those beaches, but she called the day “different” overall.
“It was surprising, because we usually find something different,’ Stover said. “We had people in the dunes, in the rocks, but no reports of anything unusual.”
Stover did think it was interesting so few people showed up in spite of the stellar weather, and even fewer showed up to be fed for lunch after they were done on the beaches. She said she noticed many were simply enjoying a day on the beach after finishing.
In the Cannon Beach area, Robert Mushen oversaw all of the beaches along the town and south to Arcadia State Park and Arch Cape. 125 people showed up there, which is a little more than the 100 or so that volunteered last spring.
Mushen said his group snagged approximately 1200 pounds worth of debris – nothing very noteworthy, except for a few pair of sunglasses and more broken glass than normal. But there was plenty of melted glass, where people had tossed their bottles into beach fires.
Again, Mushen reported a lot of small plastics.
In the Seaside area, Coral Cook said she had many more volunteers than usual – about 500. They encountered a dead bird, but nothing else out of the ordinary. Cook said she heard reports of a lot more plastic bits than usual, and one regular volunteer with the clean ups told her he thought the beaches were a lot dirtier than ever, including more beer bottles.
“We did have a lot of big weekends recently, and a lot more people on the beaches,” Cook said.
Contrast that with Doug Sestrich, who was zone captain for the lower part of Lincoln County, including South Beach, Ona Beach, Waldport and Yachats areas. Sestrich said the beaches were cleaner than normal. He said numbers of volunteers were down as well.
Oddities in his area included a chunk of an old dock, estimated at 1200 pounds.
Trisha Wymore handled the area of Lane County beaches from Washburne State Park down through just south of Florence. Her group saw plenty of wacky stuff, including a hide-a-bed couch that was burned and a plastic barrier for a parking lot. There were lots of light bulbs, as well as bottles with writing on them from Russia, China, Korea and such, and then part of a fiberglass boat.
“We had quite a high percentage of plastics,” Wymore said.
They also grabbed 560 pounds of tires from the beaches.
Her numbers for volunteers were also way down – about half.
“We had about 164 volunteers,” Wymore said. “We usually have over 300. There weren’t as many out of towners this time, more locals.”
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