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Water Pollution caused by Actions on Land

2010 March 30

Last summer I was a lifeguard on Myrtle Beach. It was a fun yet stressful job to say the least. I was constantly asked about the presence of jellyfish and, of course, sharks, but was rarely asked of the quality of the water. Only once sections of the beach were closed were questions raised, indirectly, towards water quality.

The answer as to why beaches were being closed was easy to answer: the waters in the areas closed down were unsafe because of environmental degradation. Streams of water leading from the land beyond the beach to the ocean are caused by “swashes.” Swashes are areas of the beach where water has washed onshore after an incoming wave has broken, causing sand and other light particles to cover the beach. There are signs around the swashes warning beach-goers that it is not safe to play in the streams for fear of health concerns, as the water in the streams harbor bacteria caused by pollution. However, the shallow, calm waters and large, rounded rocks provide a seemingly harmless playground to children and families.

The pipelines that surge run-off from the land to the ocean create an easy access for pollution to reach the water on our beaches. Sections of the beach close down usually after periods of rainfall, as rain moves ample amounts of pollutants into the ocean. Most of the pollutants that are in the water are caused by what people are doing on land. Some actions that cause ocean contamination and pollution include:

  • Automobile and boat use
  • Pesticide use
  • Garbage dumping
  • Land-clearing
  • Toxic waste dumping
  • Oil spills

The bacteria, pollutions, wastes, and pesticides in oceans and on beaches can have detrimental health effects to humans, especially children. These health effects include:

  • Sore Throat
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

The problem in our coastal waters is one that should concern us. Children like to play on the sand and in the water, making them more susceptible to the health effects caused by pollution.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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13 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    March 30, 2010

    Like public swimming pool, beaches are too. Here, I am sad to see the children have been playing there. Except the privacy beach, of course.

  2. Anthony permalink
    March 30, 2010

    I think that is a shame, and concerns need to grow about the situation. I live in Georgia and my drinking water is horable last year the water was tested at lake laneer and toxics were found like drugs or prescribtions meds that people thats our only water resorce for now and we share it with Florida and Alabama. they also sent notices out to Govenor to buid new dams for drinking water, because in two years its going to be shut off. Sunny purdue has 300,000,000 million dollars and says he saving it for a rainy day! yet has done nothing for our water supply his last term this October. I think our water is comtaminated thats the real reason for sutting down. clorine is so strong when you enter your home from being gone it smells like bleach the whole house that your eyes water just from the toilet imagine what its like to drink! please tell me how i can obtain some testing kits for research ?

  3. Larry Cassada permalink
    March 30, 2010

    Don’t know about testing kits, but I would definitely recommend a Brita-type pitcher for the refrigerator. Put the filter in (rinse the filter as directed), fill the pitcher, put in frig, pour as needed and refill each time, so it will always be full. Works great and makes the water drinkable (assuming there are no bacteria to speak of). The filters at the tap work but usually the water comes out so slowly that it doesn’t seem worth the trouble. With the pitcher, you fill the top part and it runs through the filter as it sits in the frig.

  4. Al Bannet permalink
    March 30, 2010

    I buy distilled water in plastic bottles. I don’t want to, but it’s the only way I can be reasonably sure my drinking water is safe; but even so I caught an intestinal virus that is “going around”. All these troubles are caused by overpopulation that produces more waste and garbage every year and our society’s failure to establish 100% recycling; so it can only get worse.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 30, 2010

    The pollution that threatens our oceans and beaches and our inland rivers and streams is the result of human activity. Many times, the people doing the polluting are unaware that what they are doing is causing contamination. They have no idea that washing their car and letting the water and soap suds go down the gutter is going to go into the storm drain, then into a river or creek that will drain into the ocean and can result in dead wildlife and fish all the way to and including the ocean. The California Water Quality Control Board is improving the situation but we still have some of what EPA calls IMPARED WATERS here in south Orange County. The San Diego District of the Water Quality Control Board has just finished work on tough new regulations for storm water runoff and for those who discharge non-storm water runoff into creeks, streams, and rivers. Under the new regulations, most all none-storm runoff will be prohibited with very few exceptions, like fire fighting. Source point controls are being increased in residential and commercial areas and storm water must meet certain water quality standards before it can be discharged into waterways. New and major redevelopment projects must implement storm water control best practices that will cut to the maximum extent possible the flow of contaminated storm water from construction sites into the storm drain system. So there are things that can be done. But education and outreach is important for individuals as well as corporations. People need to know that a stream or stream bank is not a place to leave cigarette butts, beer or cans, plastic bottles, and the discards from fast food meals. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. Al Bannet permalink
    March 31, 2010

    But as the population keeps on growing there are more sources of the runoff pollution every month and every year, and even if all of them were careful, the amount of waste and garbage keeps on growing. So, how many people can the California environment support? How many people can the Earth support? Why do you and so many others avoid such questions?

  7. Dr. E. Waal permalink
    March 31, 2010

    In response to the article, Al Bannet asks, “So, how many people can the California environment support? How many people can the Earth support? Why do you and so many others avoid such questions?” Michale Bailey’s commentary was good and partially answers Al Bannet’s questions. There are no correct answers to Mr. Bannet’s questions because the answer constantly changes based on technical innovation and changes in the actions of populations.

    When we over-treat lawns to kill weeds and insects we have adverse impacts. When cultural norms have people washing their cars every three or four days for appearances only, that too has adverse impacts. In my humble opinion, we need to keep innovation incentives high; for example, rewarding those who market lawn treatment chemicals that biodgrade into harmless constituents quickly. We need to vote at the cash register.

    Manufacturers are not evil pollluters. Manufacturers have obligations to shareholders and to meet the demands of consumers. Sharholders and consumers shape the actions of the Companies with whom they become associated. We, as consumers, need to make personal choices in what we buy, how we use those things, and how we dispose of things when no longer needed, wanted or when spent. Over-regulation and misguided regulation are ineffective and wasteful. In reality, the marketplace rules. We’re seeing a cultural change, becoming more green. That leaves me with two questions…

    As Countries continue to develop and manufacturing moves to those locations, can the green theme be effectively transported? Will China and India become much worse before getting better?


    Can we make a dirty car a status symbol? Why not? It would make my life easier.

  8. Al Bannet permalink
    April 1, 2010

    All of that is very good advice, but again the question of how many people the Earth can support is avoided. So, what is it? 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 billion? At what point will the biosphere collapse under the toxic weight of enormous amounts of pollution, and the loss of natural wilderness to create the fresh air, fresh water and fertile soil we need to grow our food? We’re dealing with an instinct here, a blind impulse to grow and grow forever onward and outward to the stars. But the Earth is NOT growing. Instead, it is slowly shrinking with each volcano and earthquake. Thus, a growing economy on such a shrinking planet has no future. We need a stable population and a stable economy economy.

  9. Al BannetOO permalink
    April 1, 2010

    Oops, sorry for the glitch. Only one “economy” is needed. Too much of any good thing turns it bad.

  10. Al Bannet permalink
    April 1, 2010

    I replied to your post, and apparently the censor has removed it. But always remember: “TRUTH CRUSHED TO EARTH WILL RISE AGAIN!”

  11. Rico Puerto permalink
    October 7, 2010

    If you want to go on vacation where the sun is always out all year round, where everything is as exotic as it should be, then Puerto Rico is the country spot you’re looking for. You’ll have the most satisfying trip you need here because they have everything a vacationer tourist needs. Might it be unceasing swimming and or surfing we bet you’ll have your fill and more.

  12. David L. Ford permalink
    April 23, 2011

    I agree with you. Years from now I will not be surprised to see someone invented something like pool filters and pumps to provide a clean beach. It’s a sad reality not unless we choose to educate our younger generation about living green.

  13. Barney permalink
    April 13, 2013

    Heyy I live in Myrtle Beach!!!

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