by Waleska Nieves Muñoz
I was 10 when I went snorkeling for the first time. I was immediately mesmerized with the variety of species living in the ocean, but I was also surprise to see trash on the ocean floor. That moment of wonder and confusion of seeing something so beautiful polluted with trash, motivated me to study Environmental Technology at the Inter American University at San German Campus in Puerto Rico. I later pursued a Master Degree in Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University in VA. I successfully applied for a job opportunity at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While working at the Agency, I also felt the need to serve the Hispanic community to make better decisions about their environment.
Community involvement is key for communities to make informed decisions about their health and the environment. Since language can be a barrier to many individuals with limited English proficiency to make these informed decisions, I started to translate environmental information related to the Superfund program in to Spanish. You may ask how is Superfund related to the marine environment? Well, if we don’t protect and clean up our land, the beaches and the marine environment, the marine conditions could easily be degraded to the level of a site as those regulated by the Superfund program! By translating these outreach materials was able to provide the opportunity for the Hispanic communities to become empowered to develop a healthier neighborhood and community.
As people become better informed, they will not dump trash that pollutes our beaches. We all will be able to dive, swim, snorkel and surf in a safe place, see reefs and the wonderful diverse marine life while enjoying the beach, So, what can we do? You and your family can organize a beach cleanup this summer. Or how about simply picking up after yourself when going to the beach? Educate your family and friends to use reusable utensils at the beach. Don’t leave plastic bags and trash around… You can make a difference by protecting the coastal watershed. For more information, check Protecting the Beaches, the Coastal Watershed Factsheets on The Beach and Your Coastal Watershed and Marine Debris Prevention and let’s help to keep our oceans clean for our family, our community, and our future.
About the author: Waleska Nieves-Muñoz has been working as an environmental scientist for over 12 years at EPA. Currently, she works in the Office of Civil Rights Title VI, External Compliance Program. The mission of Title VI is to ensure that recipients of EPA financial assistance and others comply with the relevant non-discrimination requirements under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.