30 Apr FOKLSS cleans up the beach at Kokanee Creek Park
Spring Beach Clean-up at Kokanee Creek
On April 27th, 2019, despite the cold weather, FOKLSS and over 25 volunteers met at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park to clean-up the main beach. We had hot coffee, tea and homemade treats there to keep us warm and fueled up to pick up trash on the shoreline.
At first glance, the beach appeared to be free of garbage, but as we combed the sand we began to notice large and small pieces of blue and white polystyrene (StyrofoamTM). The broken down polystyrene is hard to see at first, it can easily be mistaken for rocks and pebbles. It is also difficult and time-consuming to pick up because it gets trapped under rocks and buried in the sand. Our group got to work over-turning rocks and sifting through sand and came up with multiple buckets and bags filled with this degraded polystyrene. We noticed that as we got closer to a cluster of adjacent boat docks the polystyrene became more abundant.
Old docks like these are known to be the main source of the increasing amount of polystyrene washing up on the shore of Kootenay Lake. Polystyrene, made from petrochemicals, was first manufactured in the 1970’s and now has thousands of uses. It is water resistant and very lightweight when made into foam. Non-biodegradable, StyrofoamTM lasts for hundreds of years and is not easily recycled. Being 95% gas, it floats very well and is promoted as an excellent, cheap material for docks. Buoyancy billets can be blue extruded polystyrene foam (XPF) or compressed white spheres molded into blocks. Newer docks use rigid plastic boxes which keep the StyrofoamTM from getting into the environment.
If these small blue and white pieces are not picked up they are perpetuated in the environment by mixing into the sand and organic material with the wind and waves. This pollution is not only an eyesore but is harmful to freshwater species such as fish and birds that can mistake the plastic for food. Marine studies show that many animals, after ingesting plastic, exhibit a loss of appetite, toxic poisoning, and starvation. One can assume that freshwater fish such as trout and kokanee also eat small pieces. Ducks have been observed pecking and eating the StyrofoamTM dock blocks.
Hosting beach clean-ups is just one-way Friends of Kootenay Lake is working to help protect the health of our shoreline. To learn more about our shoreline restoration efforts follow the link. We will continue to raise awareness of this issue of non-point source pollution, by engaging community members and connecting with a network of amazing volunteers and community leaders.
Thank you to all who came out and made a huge difference at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Also, we would like to send a big thank you to Terry and Ursula Lowrey and their team who helped take all the garbage away and who work tirelessly to raise awareness about and remove polystyrene on Kootenay Lake. Your passion and efforts are invaluable!
If you know of a beach that is in need of a clean-up email us at firstname.lastname@example.org