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Saturday September 20 marked the 26th annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep. The Beach Sweep/River Sweep is an annual marine debris cleanup event organized by South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The event takes place across the state of South Carolina on the third Saturday in September, and individual cleanup sites are selected and captained by volunteers. Volunteers spend three hours collecting aquatic debris and keep a tally of items find. The data is compiled at the end of the cleanup event to quantify and characterize marine debris impacting South Carolina’s waterways.

Charleston Waterkeeper’s team regularly picks up debris during our weekly sample runs for the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program. As such, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to help with an intense cleanup near sites we visit on a weekly basis. For this reason we chose to volunteer on Shem Creek, home to 3 of our 15 sample sites. Members of the Charleston Waterkeeper team joined site captain Brett Champion from the Town of Mount Pleasant and other generous volunteers to assist in collecting over 30 bags of trash from Shem Creek!

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Here are two recounts of the event:

Sam Lawson-Johnston (Charleston Waterkeeper Club President)

I chose to volunteer because my family has a close connection to the water, especially in Charleston. I have known how to cast a fly rod since I was about 9 or 10 years old. The amount of trash I saw was eye opening, but not completely surprising. Though Shem Creek does have a lot of adjacent business, that is no excuse. I found a lot of plastic water bottles and what appeared to be PVC pipe, but everything I picked up was pretty consistent with what I expected.

Cheryl Carmack (Staff Scientist)

I chose to volunteer because I always enjoy the experience of participating in cleanup events – they are a great way to meet environmentally conscious people and to reconnect with the water. Cleanup events are also a good reminder of the importance of stewardship and the large impact that can be made in a small amount of time. The most common items I found, as in most cleanups, were styrofoam pieces and cigarette butts. These items were so abundant it was difficult to keep track! The strangest items I found were a shotgun shell and a bike lock. I was glad I volunteered because it served as a reminder to strive harder in finding alternatives to styrofoam.