Whenever you come across some pollution in the water or on the shoreline, a few thoughts may go through your head. For example, you may feel disgusted by what you see, and choose to ignore it. Out of sight, out of mind, or the other way around in this case.
You may instead be so disheartened you actually clean up the garbage yourself, and that’s a truly great thing. Not everything can be cleaned up so easily, though, no matter how much we want to see it happen. Maybe it’s sewage discharge in the harbour, or an obscene collection of plastic on the beach. What do we do if we want to make a difference, but it isn’t so feasible to do so?
There is one thing everyone can, should—and must—do to make sure waterbodies are protected. And it’s simpler than you think.
Take a picture. Photos, and videos, are the best way to not only document pollution, but can also be powerful to ensure pollution is dealt with.
Case in point, in recent weeks we have received pollution reports for odd colouring or foam in the water. Unfortunately, no photos were taken, making it very hard to pinpoint what the issue may be.
Foam in the water is a great example of the importance of taking photos. Foam buildup is natural. You often see it on shorelines or along creeks. It’s a result of organic matter—leaves, twigs, seaweed buildup, etc.—interacting with moving water (waves on a shore, rapids), allowing more air to interact with the water. This forms bubbles, and bubbles ultimately congregate and builds into foam.
Natural foam is typically off-white, turning more brown the longer it sticks around. Another sign of natural foam is the smell—typically a fishy, even earthy smell.
Unnatural foam is slightly different. For example, when excess amounts of detergents enter the water, you will see a buildup of pure white foam that gives off a soapy odour.
Another step to determine if foam is natural or not is examining the area you see the buildup. Unnatural foam often comes from a discharge point, like a sewage outfall or runoff from a nearby industrial facility. So if you see foam, be sure to also take pictures of the surrounding area. It helps us determine the cause if it does appear to be unnatural.
Pictures of foam, or any pollution you see, is also essential because they are visual proof. There’s a common saying: “the solution to pollution is dilution.” That just means that pollution discharged into our waterways eventually gets diluted, and “not a problem” anymore. This attitude is problematic, and can make you feel helpless whenever you see pollution come and go without repercussion.
That’s why pictures are so important. Pollution may get diluted and disappear, but that picture never goes away. Like this video submitted to us through Twitter, which is now a great record of unnatural foam, aka pollution.
And don’t just take the photos and leave them on your phone: share them with us. Use our Report Pollution tool. Report what you see out there to us. We will help you understand where that pollution may have come from, and we will help you get it cleaned up, if possible.
The more we all draw eyes to pollution, the louder our voice becomes in preventing it in the first place.
See a pile of plastic pollution on the beach? Come across some obvious signs of sewage in a local waterway? Or a collection of odd-coloured water or foam along the shoreline? Tell us through our pollution reporting tool!