POLLUTION of the BEACHES: Causes and Consequences

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Today, pollution, understood as the anthropogenic modification of an ecosystem that involves, among other things, a change in concentration in its natural chemical components or the introduction of artificial chemical substances, takes place in all kinds of natural systems, including those coasts and beaches, which act as important sources of animal and plant biodiversity, as well as a tourist attraction.

Surely, you have noticed that there is more and more alert in the media to warn of the serious situation of the oceans, seas and beaches and all that this entails. If you want to learn more about this environmental problem, keep reading this Green Ecologist article in which we explain everything about the beach pollution, its causes and consequencesas well as information on how to prevent this from getting worse and steps to fix it.

Causes of beach pollution

Between the main causes of beach pollution, we can find:

Pollutant spills on the beaches

For example, we can cite the discharges in wet seasons from the pipes due to excess rainfall, which include runoff water, discharges from combined sewer overflows and sanitary wastewater overflows.

Rain or snowmelt water flows through the grounds collecting materials on its way, such as chemicals, sediments and pollutants, such as gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze, fertilizers, pesticides, metals, as well as bacteria, and ends up in drains , rivers, streams and, finally, on the beaches and the ocean.

On the other hand, combined sewer overflows, which are those that collect rainwater and domestic and industrial wastewater and transport them to treatment plants, can occur in times of abundant rainfall in which the volume of wastewater collected can Exceeding the capacity of the sewage system or the treatment plant and, therefore, causing discharges of said excess wastewater directly to streams, rivers or other nearby bodies of water.

In turn, overflows of sanitary water (a mixture of raw, industrial wastewater and rainwater) can occur when unintentional discharges of the same take place from the sewage systems in situations of obstructions or failures in the system ( for example, due to overloads).

Here you will find more information about What is wastewater and how it is classified

Waste and garbage on the beaches

Accumulation of garbage and waste, among which plastic waste, microplastics, bottles, cans, cigarette butts, caps and lids stand out. These wastes can reach the beaches in two more ways: either by not being properly recycled and being transported by rainwater to sewers, rivers and streams and ending up in the ocean, or by having been deposited directly on the beaches themselves by your visitors.

In this other Green Ecologist article you can learn more about Garbage Pollution, its causes and consequences.

Discharges into the sea from the boats

Accidental or intentional discharges from recreational and commercial boats start in the ocean or sea, but much end up on the beaches, affecting different ecosystems. The discharges generated by the boats include garbage from food, fishing equipment (nets, ropes, etc.), ballast water, water from showers and sinks or anti-fouling paints, among others.

Nitrogen and other nutrients in excess

There are nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, that are found naturally in aquatic ecosystems and that serve for the growth of algae and aquatic plants and these, in turn, as food and habitat for the fauna of the system. The excess of these nutrients occurs on many coasts and can be due to anthropic activities and cause environmental problems and negative effects on people's health. One of the most important sources of this excess of nutrients on the beaches is agriculture, due to the excessive use of fertilizers, fertilizers for crops and soil erosion.

Consequences of pollution on beaches

The consequences of beach pollution they are highly varied in nature and solution, as shown below.

  • Impact on public health: sewage discharges into the marine system lead to beach pollution with the introduction of notable amounts of fecal bacteria, such as those of the genus Enterococcus or the popular Escherichia coli, and generate sources of disease transmission to the population by coming into direct contact with polluted waters or by ingesting infected organisms (such as fish or shellfish). Within the symptomatological picture that affected people may present are colic, gastroenteritis processes, fevers, etc.
  • Biodiversity loss: the presence of garbage on the beaches it involves the increased risk that the animals that live there, such as seabirds, come into contact with these materials and ingest them. It is estimated that 90% of seabirds consume waste discarded by humans, which is a clear example of the global prevalence of anthropogenic pollution in these types of systems and in the marine environment in general. In this other article you will find detailed information on the Loss of biodiversity, its causes and consequences.
  • Economic damages: The beaches function as tourist attraction points and their contamination can lead to a loss of their landscape value, which translates into a lower influx of visits and the consequent economic loss of the area.

How to avoid beach pollution - prevention measures

To prevent or reverse situations of beach pollution, various measures can be implemented both at the legislative level and at the individual level of those who visit the coastal areas. So that you have an idea about how to prevent beach pollution, we can highlight the following ideas:

  • Investment in environmental education programs to raise public awareness about the protection and maintenance of the environment. At the individual level, the protection of these spaces should be promulgated, taking responsibility for the garbage generated in these spaces.
  • Implementation of programs to monitor pollution levels on beaches that make use of sentinel organisms (living beings used to analyze the level of pollution in an environment from the presence of pollutants inside or based on their mere presence or absence in said environment), which provide information on the quality of the water and sand on the beaches.
  • Improvement of the wastewater treatment service at the municipal level. In certain places, especially in summer times - when the influx of tourists is usually greater than during the rest of the year - the amount of wastewater received by collection systems and water treatment plants exceeds their capacity and, consequently, the untreated water is discharged back to the environment. To avoid that this type of situation is repeated every year, it would be advisable to establish a greater number of water treatment plants to soften the load of the existing ones, which could be financed, in part, by the eco-taxes for visitors to the towns with beach. Here you can know the types of wastewater treatment that currently exist.
  • Application of regulations at the regional or state level for the beach protection.
  • Increased control of vessels to verify that they do not commit infractions when managing the waste generated in them.

Solutions for beach pollution - recovery measures

Within the set of management and restoration measures for polluted beaches, highlight:

  • Campaigns garbage collection from the beaches, either organized by groups of volunteers or by the administrative bodies of the affected localities.
  • Application of a specific regulations for beaches that include the pertinent procedures to alert and close beaches in cases of punctual contamination of the same.
  • Installing a larger number of garbage containers on the beaches Well, in times of great influx of visitors, they are usually full and overflowing, which, together with a poor awareness of the population, tends to promote the abandonment of waste on the beaches.
  • Cleaning and restoration of the points of contamination on the beaches to avoid the risk of affecting human health.

Finally, here below you can see a gallery of photos of pollution on the beaches, which you can use, along with this information, to help raise awareness.

If you want to read more articles similar to Beach pollution: causes and consequences, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

Photos of Beach Pollution: causes and consequences

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