Semiahmoo Spit, like many beaches in the Puget Sound, collects waste from all over the world. Cleaning the garbage requires constant and dedicated effort.
On Jan. 16, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day day cleanup was coordinated by Students for the Salish Sea to alleviate the environmental strain.
“Our beach cleanup is in solidarity with a group called ‘Friends of the San Juans,’” Sarah Sasek said, an event coordinator for the cleanup. “They’re organizing similar beach cleanups on Lopez, Orcas, San Juan and Shaw Islands on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to show they oppose oil spills in the Salish Sea.”
The cleanup partially came about to oppose an upcoming expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, which would increase oil tanker traffic through the area, Sasek said.
“Whenever my husband and I go anywhere we pick up [plastics] because we know the impacts. We’ve done volunteer work with sea turtles and plastic is such a huge issue facing them.”
The volunteers ranging from toddlers to retirees swarmed the narrow beach and collected all the garbage they could.
Linda Cline, Western alumna and member, was one of the many people walking along the beach with a 5-gallon bucket, picking up fragments of plastic littering the beach, mostly Styrofoam.
“I saw it in The Bellingham Herald,” Cline said. “My husband and I are always picking up garbage everywhere so I thought, ‘This is a good way to spend a Monday.’”
Cline has done environmental work in Mexico and Costa Rica and knows the danger plastics pose to seas and wildlife.
“I’ve been concerned about plastics for years,” she said. “Whenever my husband and I go anywhere we pick up [plastics] because we know the impacts. We’ve done volunteer work with sea turtles and plastic is such a huge issue facing them.”
Some of the cleanup was focused on Styrofoam that spread across the beach.
A section of floating dock had washed up on the beach. The dock was a thin layer of concrete with Styrofoam underneath. The foam blocks eroded and deposited plastic fragments down the beach.
Blair Smith, a local resident who frequents the beach to pick up litter, was directing the Styrofoam removal. “What we’re trying to do, ideally, is to get all this Styrofoam, which breaks off and contaminates the beach,” Smith said.
Smith and several others were cutting at the foam blocks with pocket knives and putting the pieces in garbage bags.
The dock section was blown ashore during a storm and could have come from Canada, the Puget Sound or as far away as Japan, Smith said.
Cutting the foam away was slow-going and made a lot of smaller foam fragments. Eventually, volunteers sent for a jackhammer to break apart the concrete and carry the dock and foam away.