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9/15/12: Poloncarz, Volunteers Clean Up at Great Lakes Beach Sweep


27th Annual Event Removes Shoreline Debris, Provides Scientific Sampling

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Erie County Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Troy Schinzel, Commissioner of the Department of Environment and Planning Maria Whyte, volunteers from the Lake Shore Central School District, and other community members at Bennett Beach while participating in the 27th annual Great Lakes Beach Sweep. The event, part of an international coastal cleanup effort, increases public participation in addressing pollution problems while compiling data to better target pollution sources.

“Protecting and preserving our natural resources, such as here at Bennett Beach, is something that all County residents can and should take part in,” said Poloncarz. “By lending a hand in this cleanup effort, we are reaffirming the value we place on these assets, as well as our commitment to their beautification and protection for future generations. I appreciate the efforts of all the volunteers working to clean up our area beaches and waterways, and thank them for their involvement.”

The Great Lakes Beach Sweep serves a scientific sampling study as well as a cleanup effort. Volunteers scour area beaches for 2 hours, picking up debris and recording what they have collected. This data is then submitted to the American Littoral Society for evaluation to identify ways to reduce or prevent these types of pollution, which not only diminishes the beauty of our natural resources but poses a threat to wildlife. In 2011, 818 volunteers of all ages cleaned beaches from Woodlawn State Park to Westfield, NY. Statewide, a total of 6,638 volunteers cleaned over 260 miles of shoreline, removing 93,644 lbs. of debris in 24 counties.

The American Littoral Society analyzes data submitted from participating sites and compiles the information into a list featuring the “Dirty Dozen”, the twelve most commonly recorded types of pollution. In 2011, these included (in descending order): caps/lids (13% of total); food wrappers/containers (10% of total); cigarettes/cigarette filters (10% of total); plastic bags (8% of total); straws/stirrers (7% of total); plastic beverage bottles of 2 liters or less (7% of total); cups, plates, forks, spoons, knives (6% of total); rope (5% of total); beverage cans (5% of total); glass bottles (4% of total); balloons (2% of total); and cigar tips (2% of total).

“I would like to thank all the volunteers who are pitching in with the Beach Sweep here at Bennett Beach and around the area,” said Parks Commissioner Troy Schinzel. “It shows their commitment to protecting our natural areas, and hopefully also gives them a new perspective and appreciation for how vital our beautiful beaches and parks are in Erie County.”

“The beaches have never been cleaner, but we are thrilled that we still have thousands of volunteers willing to come out,” said Sharen Trembath, Lake Erie Coordinator for the Great Lakes Beach Sweep. “I love the idea that over these 27 years of the program we have made a difference by involving intergenerational volunteers – children, parents, grandparents – and that we have seen a difference in the reduction of certain items, like tires.”

The Great Lakes Beach Sweep also helps to raise awareness about stormwater runoff and its impact on the environment. Much of the runoff found in area waterways is actually the result of litter on the street, which enters waterways through storm sewers. The Erie County Department of Environment and Planning coordinates a regional effort to address stormwater runoff through the Western New York Stormwater Coalition.

“It is important to realize that a significant amount of the pollution that finds its way to our beaches and waterways comes from land-based sources like street litter, which gets into storm sewers and finds its way to the water,” said Commissioner Maria Whyte. “While it is good to see all these volunteers here cleaning up beach debris, I would encourage all residents to please dispose of garbage and trash in appropriate receptacles, to clean up trash when you see it rather than let it blow around, and to be responsible for whatever waste they might produce.”

Additional volunteer opportunities for cleanup along the region’s waterways are available by participating in Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s Fall Shoreline Sweep on Saturday, September 22, 2012. For more information, visit   www.bnriverkeeper.org 

For more information on the Great Lakes Beach Sweep, visit    www.greatlakesbeachsweep.org

For more information on the Erie County Department of Parks and Recreation, visit http://www2.erie.gov/parks/

For more information on the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning and the Western New York Stormwater Coalition, visit  http://www2.erie.gov/environment/index.php?q=western-new-york-stormwater-coalition