Under The Med Sea. Plastic and Poop Pollution.

At a recent beach clean up I found out something a little gross.

Baby Saddled seabreams/Oblada melanura and plastic waste

What I thought was waterlogged pieces of polystyrene clumps that had an unique smell are actually waterlogged dried pieces of poop! In the summer when those clumps that have been further up the waterline dried out in the sun, they crumble and you’re none the wiser to what they are next to polystyrene clumps that crumble. I felt sick. I had no idea and thankful for gloves I’ve been wearing! 

Wet wipe, drinking cans, leaves, twigs, other plastic

It’s been raining recently which means the rivers and overflow drains empty out into the sea and or the beaches. All the city beaches have a particular smell after heavy rain. It’s not seaweed or seaspray. It’s chemicalish. I asked my clean up friend what she thought it was and she replied ‘Caca!’ Eh. Shit? How? Does the wastewater treatment plant not work? She said it does. A while back through her work she attended a visit to the water treatment plant or another beach clean up that was a talk about ocean/sea waste. In heavy rains the plants can’t contain the waste so they let it overflow. The waste (is this now raw sewage?) ends up in the rivers and ultimately in the sea. Few people know that there is a wastewater treatment plant close the beaches within Barcelona. It’s hidden although occasionally you can smell it. I’m not sure if the waste we found was from this plant due to the location or from the river next door. Either one, it was disgusting. People were walking along side it, little kids were running into the sea. There was a clump I found and left, that was in the process of turning white. 

I remember this kept bashing into me. Often I left the sea with bulging biceps and huge belly as I stuffed plastic in my rashie. Sleeves and all. I think this year I’ll have to find a light weight mesh bag to collect any I find. I need a lightweight hip pouch (bum bag/fanny pack) to carry everything in snorkelling.

Baby Saddled sea breams/Oblada melanura

I asked if she knew why it turned white. She didn’t but it got me thinking as many animal poop in the wild turns white. This a search later is due to sunlight and humidity. The only answer asking why does poop dry white, I could find that wasn’t poop analysis was that sunlight and humidity can change dog poo different colours, so I presume poop in wastewater treatment facilities are subject to heat and bacteria to break it down to sludge. Looking into the wastewater sludge, the lighter the colour, the more fresh it is. TBH, I can’t find a straight forward answer, but it’s human waste non the less. *** Links below. 

Now I know, I can see a clump of waterlogged dried floating poo/sludge! Slap bang in the middle!

I’m not sure what’s worse. Innocently picking it up or swimming in it as I did a few times last year. There were a few days last year as summer started saying see you later the water was badly polluted with rubbish. I think it had rained in night and when it does the beaches are usually yellow flag due to water quality. This can be for a variety of reasons. Me being me, summer’s saying see you later, I have limited snorkel swims left, I’m going in the water. It was so sad to see fish swimming amongst plastic. Some plastic was floating on the surface tangled up with bamboo. Other plastics were like jelly fish floating in the water column. 

4 things/observations that stood out from the pollution last year;

1.One particular snorkel even with the plastic floating, there was great visibility. Usually like the photos here it’s low vis.

2. Would humans let their children play/be amongst trash/rubbish like some baby fish clouds were.

The rest of the photos were taken the same snorkel. It was quite choppy with a lot of sediment swirling around. Observation 3 in a few photos.

A type of grey mullet. I think Thicklip grey mullets/Chelon labrosus
Thick grey mullets/Chelon labrosus and Salemas/Sarpa salpa
Female Ornate wrasse/Thalassoma pavo

Resident solitary Damselfish/Chromis chromis. I’m not sure if this is the true for all solitary damselfish. Most of the solitary ones I saw were larger and darker than the ones that liked to be in huge schools.

Striped red mullets/Mullus surmuletus and I think Red mullets/Mullus barbatus foraging. I can watch these for hours!

3. The next day on many occasions the water was clear again. I don’t think the council cleared it, so where did the trash go? Did the sea take it away. We all know about the Great Garbage Patches in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Floating lakes of plastic. But did you know the Mediterranean has them too? Another beach volunteer said some of friends fishing out on boats have found great patches of plastic too. 

A type of red mullet!
Striped sea breams/Lithognathus mormyrus.
Perfect camouflage. I think Striped red mullets/Mullus surmuletus out in deeper water.

4. This summer if the water has an oily not petroleum oil smell to it or that faux polyester clump to it, I’m thinking twice if to go in. Small cuts and accidentally intaking water that’s contaminated might make me ill. Now I get surfers who campaign against sewage. Not just from an environmentally aspect.

The only way to reduce the amount of plastic in the sea is to rely on it less. Reducing plastic usage and waste, opting for plastic free alternatives can make a huge difference! Thank you for stopping by!

***Links if you wish to know the colours of wastewater sewage. If you can answer the question as to why it’s white, please leave a message in the comments below!

Why sewage sludge and why white phosphorus?

Color & foam – two easily monitored wastewater parameters that should be recorded

Problem with white colour of wastewater

The four stages of wastewater treatment

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