March 26 and 27 2021 Beach Cleanup at Kokanee Creek Park

March 26 and 27 2021 Beach Cleanup at Kokanee Creek Park

On Friday March 26 and Saturday March 27 Friends of Kootenay Lake coordinated a beach cleanup at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park to remove garbage and polystyrene foam from the shoreline.


Information on polystyrene (Styrofoam)

Polystyrene foam on Kootenay Lake is a massive and nearly impossible issue to manage. Each year, more and more residents of the Kootenay Lake community reach out and speak out about the issue of small bits of foam littering Kootenay Lake shorelines. The foam is derived from old docks that use the foam for buoyancy. Large foam bricks beak away from decaying and derelict docks and crumble into tiny pieces as wave action crashes the foam into abrasive surfaces such as rocks. These millions of tiny foam pieces littering shorelines not only looks unaesthetic, but it also negatively impacts the health of wildlife, ecosystems and humans.

Polystyrene contains the toxic chemical styrene, which is reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) in humans according to the National Toxicology Program. Wildlife around the lake including fish and waterfowl frequently consume small bits of polystyrene foam, mistaking them for insects or other food materials as they float along the water surface. Styrene is known to partition into the fat of animals that consume it, which means that there is a risk of humans ingesting styrene by consuming fish or other wildlife within the lake. It is unknown how long it takes polystyrene plastics and foams to decompose in the environment, but some experts estimate decomposition time to be over 500 years. 

Figure 1: photograph of polystyrene foam on the beach near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Notice how the foam bits can blend in with surrounding rocks and substrate.


Figure 2: A photo of intact blocks of polystyrene foam found on Kootenay Lake before. This is what polystyrene foam blocks look like before they wave action and abrasion crumbles them into tiny pieces and microplastics.


Growing stewardship ethics among Kootenay Lake residents are helping tackle the issue of polystyrene pollution locally

The beach cleanup undertaken over two days at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park demonstrated the tenacity and will of Kootenay Lake residents to improve lake health and aesthetic. The garbage bags shown in the photo below are almost entirely filled by thousands of tiny pieces of polystyrene foam. Each and every little piece was individually hand-picked from the beach by a small group of amazing, dedicated volunteers. The passion is astounding and we are immensely grateful to all who showed up and contributed their efforts toward this painstaking task.

Figure 3: a photo collage of the foam and garbage cleaned from shorelines near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park


Figure 4: A handful of polystyrene foam removed from Redfish Beach. Photo courtesy of Angus Glass.


Figure 5: A bucket of polystyrene foam removed from the beach near the Kokanee Creek Marina


Figure 6: Assistant Program Manager, Kayla Tillapaugh carrying out a triumphant block of polystyrene foam from next to the Kokanee Creek Marina. Photo courtesy of Joanne Siderius.


Figure 7: Volunteers hang-picking foam from the shoreline near the Kokanee Creek Marina.


Figure 8: Volunteers hand-picking foam from beside the Kokanee Creek boat launch near the Kokanee Creek Marina


Tackling a second issue…

On the second day of the cleanup, we bucked up a massive dock that ran the risk of being swept away into the lake when high water hits. Beached docks like this one pose a serious hazard to boaters as they frequently float just below the water surface, practically invisible to oncoming aquatic traffic. Hitting one of these with your boat could cause serious injury to passengers and damage to the water vessel.

Figure 9: Volunteers sawing up a massive beached dock near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park


Figure 10: The bucked up beached dock being hauled away to safety


Thanks to our funders: Columbia Basin Trust, BC Parks and the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program for making this event possible. Thanks to RAP Parks Contracting for supporting the event. And thanks to FortisBC for providing some free swag to volunteers!