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Trash Tells Tale of Brewers Beach Denizens

Sept. 21, 2008 — Something sounding like weird poetry was heard at Brewers Bay Saturday: "Plastic bag." "Foil." "Dime Bag." "Another spoon." "Plastic bag."
It was no poetry slam, rather the voices of volunteers telling tabulators about the debris that they were picking up off the beach, at the start of Coastweeks Beach Cleanup.
Billed by the Ocean Conservancy as the world’s largest volunteer effort for the ocean, a similar scene was happening all over the planet Saturday.
A simultaneous event on St. Croix will clean up Altona Lagoon in Christiansted and Lt. Gov. Gregory R. Francis was scheduled. (See: "Coastweeks Crews Tackle Half-Dozen Cleanup Sites.")
Most of the 50 volunteers at Brewers Bay were UVI students, some earning extra credit for classes and others who just saw the poster and wanted to participate. There were also a number of students from Charlotte Amalie High School's Environmental Club and staffers from Ecotours and some other groups, according to Lillian Moolenaar, from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources Coastal Zone Management Division.
Teams were generally made up of three or four members. Some people knew each other before and some were ad hoc teams. They were outfitted with garbage bags, plastic gloves and a tabulation sheet. One person from each team was designated recorder who kept a tally on each piece of trash according to its material or use.
Lihla Noori of UVI's Center for Marine and Environmental Studies said she will enter the information captured Saturday by each team into the Ocean Conservancy's database. The information can then be analyzed to determine what kinds of activities are generating the trash at Brewers Beach.
The conservancy then uses the information on a larger scale to help businesses and other organizations develop solutions for pollution-based problems in coastal areas.
Sen. Louis Patrick Hill picked up plastic condiment containers, spoons and other debris alongside UVI team members Kia Steele and Latisha Ramsey.
Hill said he had participated "just about every year they have it. Last time I did it, it was at Vessup."
Ramsey said that she and a number of the members of the university's Psychology Club had come to the cleanup. Steele came as part of the Science 100 class, and said that participation would garner extra credit points.
Volunteers on another team, Shellese Cannonier and LaVar Browne, said they had found diapers on the beach.
"Items like diapers can take up to 400 years to break down," said Noori. She said the debris on the beach told a lot about the people who left there.
Compared with the Marianas Islands, where Noori recently finished a NOAA Coral Fellowship, the Brewers Beach debris shows "there is more awareness here [about pollution], at least it is hidden in the trees. You are not seeing household waste as much as recreational and marine debris."
Making up another team were Anna-Mai Christmas and Gabriel Rivera, marine biology majors at UVI, who were joined by senior Vanessa Malone and marine and environmental science graduate student Chris Setter.
The team said most of the garbage that they had collected included glass beverage bottles and plastic bags. They lamented the use of plastic bags by Virgin Islands retail stores, and noted that many stateside stores had that patrons bring their own bag for carrying their purchases.
"I go to the grocery store with a bag," Malone said.
CAHS's Environmental club found large debris including a captain's chair from a van, a beach chair and part of a large metal bench. CAHS student Jemila Benjamin said that she thinks the beach's polluters are mainly adults.
"[Kids should] convince their parents to throw away trash and tell them what the [environmental] effect would be." Benjamin said.
Sponsors for the event included the DPNR CZM Division, the V.I. Marine Advisory Service, the V.I. Waste Management Authority and the Ocean Conservancy.
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