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Water: Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries & Beaches

What You Can Do

During a winter cleanup, a volunteer puts debris in a plastic bag, the skyline of Alexandria, VA is in the background. Did you know that more than half the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coasts? About 180 million people visit our coasts each year. Also, one out of every six jobs in the United States is marine-related, generating $54 billion in goods and services annually.

As a nation, we face many challenges to restore, maintain and protect these priceless resources. The very nature of the oceans, their vastness and complexity, hides their sensitivity to abuse by our impacts. Our coastal areas fringing this worldwide ocean are home to large populations, their activities, and waste disposal. Often these impacts are delivered to the coastal and estuarine areas by rivers and streams. EPA pursues a watershed approach to manage these ocean and coastal problems and restore our precious estuarine heritage.

Floating debris at a marina. Plastic bottles, a drink can, and a blue plastic spatula. Here's what you can do to protect our oceans and coasts - a priceless resource:

  • Conserve water in your daily life.
  • Don't be wasteful: reduce, re-use, and recycle every day.
  • Pick up trash, participate in trash clean-up days.
  • Cut the rings of plastic six-pack holders. Aquatic life and birds can become entangled in them.
  • Don't litter - streets and storm drains empty into rivers and streams that lead to our coasts.
  • Choose non-toxic products for household use.
  • Choose products carefully: avoid excess packaging.
  • Dispose of household and yard chemicals properly; read their labels.
  • Minimize use of fertilizers and pesticides on your yard.
  • Make sure your septic system is operating properly;
  • Respect your sewer system - don't pour toxic wastes, chemicals, or any medications down the toilet.
  • Remember gutters and storm drains deliver water and contaminants to streams, rivers, and eventually the ocean.
  • Maintain your boats, cars, and other heavy equipment to reduce oil leaks.
  • Do not dump petroleum products, including oil down storm drains; recycle used motor oil.
  • When visiting coral reefs, do not touch living coral.

Protecting Our Waterways: Article from the Foghorn Newsletter on Vessel Sewage Discharges
– from the Foghorn Newsletter  

Using Your Head to Help Protect Our Aquatic Resources
– Brochure available in printable version

Ten Ways to Protect Our Estuaries (1 pg, 426K, About PDF)
– A one-page flyer.

25 Things You Can Do To Save Coral Reefs Exit EPA Disclaimer

Top photo: During a winter cleanup, a volunteer puts debris in a plastic bag. The skyline of Alexandria, Virginia is in the background. This photograph was taken January 21, 2006, on the Potomac River, south of Alexandria, Virginia, during a shoreline cleanup.

Bottom photo: Floating debris at a marina: plastic bottles, a drink can, and a blue plastic spatula.

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