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According to the United Nations litter is found in all
the world’s oceans, even in remote areas far from
the obvious sourc...
Mme. Michelet, a retired chemist with a certificate in
environmental management from the University of Geneva,
spent the m...
“Your response is impregnated with
fatalism the likes of which I find
unsupportable. The authorities in a
city like ours o...
Table 1: Key figures Grand Clos
Length (meters) 28
# of pieces removed 1159
# of MLW categories 58
Density (pcs/m) 41.39
%...
Chart 2: Proportion of top ten items from Grand Clos in comparison to
the rest of Lac Léman and Marine Litter Watch.
Grand...
The debris found at Grand Clos had a similar composition, but a
higher concentration of trash per meter of shoreline than ...
“The communities upstream have a
responsibility to the communities and
ecosystems downstream. That is why
Switzerland, the...
ANNEX A
Table 2: % composition of
shoreline debris, Grand
Clos, Lac Léman, MLW.
GrandClos
LacLéman
MLW
Polystyrene pieces ...
Bibliography
1. Mange, Pierre. Letter from SPE Valais to Port-Valis. Sion, Valais, Switzerland : Service de la protection ...
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No Bikinis Here

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What happens when one resident puts their foot down against aquatic litter ? Read this case study based on three years of correspondence between one person and state and local officials.

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No Bikinis Here

  1. 1. According to the United Nations litter is found in all the world’s oceans, even in remote areas far from the obvious sources of the problem. The slow decomposition rate of modern polymers and the increased amount of solid waste is leading to a gradual increase in the amount of litter found in the sea, on the seabed and along coastal shores. It is an economic, environmental, human health and aesthetic problem that poses a complex and multi- dimensional challenge. (18) Who hasn’t seen the images on social media of volunteers on the beach with sacks full of garbage? NGOs organize events that attract local politicians, and financing from local businesses, at the end everybody gathers around the mountains of garbage to take a picture like hunters on a safari. The images get passed around Facebook or Instagram, people put a or a and forget about it. “The greatest sources of marine litter are land- based activities, including waste from dumping sites near the coast or upstream along river- banks…” United Nations Environmental Program Marine litter starts upstream : that’s where it needs to end. One person’s refusal to accept the systematic pollution of our aquatic environment 600km away from the nearest “beach”.
  2. 2. Mme. Michelet, a retired chemist with a certificate in environmental management from the University of Geneva, spent the morning of August 30, 2016 sifting through the assortment of hygiene products that had washed up on her property. The Q-tips, tampon applicators, bio-mass holders, bits of Styrofoam and other objects collected from the shore-line were placed into two transparent bags, and accompanied by a brief letter, were taken to city hall. The letter was to propose a discussion point for the upcoming council meeting and the contents of the bags were to animate that discussion. (5) Her actions were noted and the town council drafted a formal response on September 12, 2016. Signed by the president, the letter expresses profound outrage at the subject of her letter and her behavior at city hall. Evoking his responsibility to protect the city employees from violently unjust behavior, the president of the commune warns her against defamation and threatened her with judicial action if she continues. (6) The town council had this to say about the contents of the two transparent bags: 1.It’s not our fault 2.It’s not our fault and you live in the next town 3.The whole lake is that way not just your property Marie-Christine Michelet had built her home on a small, steep plot of land on the shore of Lac Léman a few hundred meters from the town of Port-Valais and just 1km from the mouth of the Rhone river and multiple canals that drain the Rhone flood plain. “Here is something to illustrate the discussion for the next council meeting …for example la Bouverette (a small creek in town) is just worse than when I was a child and it was the sewer for the whole town. To get the full dose you have to go all the way to the end so see it.” (5) “This way of doing things is unworthy of a city that wants to use the natural beauty of the region to attract tourists” (5) “Your behavior and your remarks are simply unacceptable and could be the subject of judicial action.” (6) “All the lake is subject to the accumulation of diverse material transported by the surge of the lake. This phenomenon is not limited to your property, by the way located in the next town, and your appreciation of the situation is not well founded” (6)
  3. 3. “Your response is impregnated with fatalism the likes of which I find unsupportable. The authorities in a city like ours on the lake shore with a vast network of canals certainly has the responsibility and the resources to activate change and if necessary adjust the way the maintenance of the canals is done.” (7) This was just the latest episode of an ongoing conversation between one person and the local administration that had begun three years prior. Concerned by the type and quantity of debris that she noticed on the shoreline of her property, Mme. Michelet had made her observations known to the Service for the Protection of the Environment (SPE) and the city of Port-Valais in July 2013. (1) A year later, despite her detailed observations, photos and proposed solutions the situation had not changed. She sent a second letter, advising the SPE of the situation on July 5, 2014. Once again providing a detailed, annotated description with concrete examples, photos and possible solutions. (2) The SPE informed Mme Michelet on July 9, 2014 that according to article 5 of the law on the protection of water that decisions about pollution or imminent pollution are the responsibility of the commune in which the pollution occurs. Therefore, all future correspondence on this matter would be forwarded to Port- Valais. (3) On that day in August, outraged herself by the tone and the threats of the presidents’ response, Mme. Michelet knew that she was confronting the legally responsible entity for the pollution of her property. She therefore took the opportunity in her reply on Sep 18, 2016 to re-iterate her observations. Inviting the members of the community to come and “see” the debris and where it gathers in the diverse nautical infrastructure of the community. (7) The description of the trash on the shoreline and in the water is remarkable in the sense that neither Mme. Michelet, the canton nor the city officials noticed that the objects listed in her diverse observations in the preceding years matched the observations of the “National Surface Water Quality Monitoring program” (NAWA) released in July 2016. The most recent results from NAWA listed hygiene products in 12% of the streams and rivers under surveillance. (8) Q-tips, Styrofoam and hygiene products accompanied by plastic lids, plastic pieces and candy wrappers are among the most common items found on the seashore in Europe. Thanks to programs like the Marine Litter Watch people all over Europe report the trash they find on the beach and where they find it. (9) So, when the president of the commune said “…All the lake is subject to the accumulation of diverse material…” he could have said “…All of Europe is covered…” and not been far from the truth. A beach litter inventory was conducted by hammerdirt on September 21, 2016 at the request of Mme. Michelet. “…where we find the items that are evidence of contamination by sewage sludge like Q-tips, toilet bowl fresheners, tampon applicators, single dose medical containers and many other items that could be thrown in the toilet. All of that mixed up with little pieces of Styrofoam…” (2) “If you would have taken the time to look at the contents of the bags I brought (tampax, maxi-pads, little bits of food wrappers, Q-tips, syringes, single use eyedroppers and other hygiene products with the usual suspects like plastic caps etc; all those unpleasant things in a semi-putrefied state), you could only concur that “Shit” is the only adequate term.” (7) “We would like to inform you that, in accordance with article 5 of the Law cantonal on the protection of water (LcEaux) from May 16, 2013, the municipalities direct the interventions and reparations in the case of pollution or imminent danger of pollution on their territories, including the Rhone and the Lac Léman.” (3)
  4. 4. Table 1: Key figures Grand Clos Length (meters) 28 # of pieces removed 1159 # of MLW categories 58 Density (pcs/m) 41.39 % plastic > 80% Top ten items Polystyrene pieces 25.19% Plastic pieces 17.95% Candy wrappers 6.3% Cotton swabs 5.87% Industrial Sheeting 5.61% Plastic caps – drinks 4.40% Shotgun cartridges 3.97% Cigarette butts 3.54% Construction waste 2.85% Plastic rings from lids 2.16% Everything else 22.17% “Marine litter (marine debris) is any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded or lost in marine and coastal environment. This also includes such items entering the marine environment via river, sewage outlets and storm water outlets or winds.” (10) “Pollution: any detrimental physical, chemical or biological change in the nature of waters.” Swiss Federal Act: Protection of Water (12) Beach litter survey results for 21-09-2016 at the location named “Grand Clos”. • comparison with other locations on Lac Léman Key terms and abbreviations: • Beach-litter-survey: the removing, sorting and counting of the debris found at the shoreline. • Density: pieces per meter of shoreline or pcs/m • MLW: Marine Litter Watch • OSPAR: Oslo-Paris convention For more details about beach-litter-surveys, why we do them and what the information is for see the guidelines from the EEA and OSPAR (11) (10) Conflict of interest: hammerdirt received no compensation for the beach-litter survey nor the analysis. We do admire the courage of Mme. Michelet. Table one summarizes the key figures for Grand Clos, this survey had the second highest density of the 79 previous surveys on the Lake. The top ten items found on her property are common throughout the lake and are all easily transported by currents, rain or wind, see chart 1. (13) The top ten items are equal to almost 80% of the anthropogenic debris found on the shoreline, lake wide the same ten items are responsible for 76% of the debris on the shoreline. (13) In relation to the rest of Europe, the items on the top ten list from Grand Clos combine to equal 48% of all shoreline debris, see chart 2. (9) Chart 1: Percent composition of anthropogenic shoreline debris, top ten items, Grand Clos 21.09.2016,
  5. 5. Chart 2: Proportion of top ten items from Grand Clos in comparison to the rest of Lac Léman and Marine Litter Watch. Grand Clos n= 1,159 MLW n= 494,941 Lac Léman n= 27,790 The top ten items found at Grand Clos are persistent throughout the environment. As the sample size increases the proportion attributed to the same ten items decreases but is still significant even at sample sizes close to 500k. (chart 2) MLW data: (9) Piecesoftrashpermeterofshore-line Chart 3: Average density, average density of key items, and max density per location, Lac Léman 2015-2016. Grand Clos had the second highest density of the 80 surveys completed on Lac Léman between November 2015 and 2016. Chart three illustrates the average density per location in descending order as well as the densities of the top-ten items identified previously. The proportion of the density attributed to the top ten items remains stable even at low densities. The survey results from Grand Clos were remarkable in terms of quantity of debris removed per meter of shoreline. Density is expressed in terms of pieces of trash per meter of shoreline or pcs/m. In the maritime environment, it is preferred to survey a minimum length of 100 meters. However, on the Lake there are few locations that offer 100m of exposed accessible shoreline.
  6. 6. The debris found at Grand Clos had a similar composition, but a higher concentration of trash per meter of shoreline than most locations on the lake. Medical items and objects related to waste water treatment combined were 9.7% of the total or 4 objects per meter. This result is elevated for the lake but not the highest, see annex a for more details. Mme. Michelet contacted the SPE on September 22, 2016, in her letter she describes in detail the contents, and origin of many of the objects that appear on her shoreline. Many of the previous pollution episodes on her property were accompanied by the discharge of large plaques of algae and/or plant cuttings from the Stockalper canal. These observations were also reported to the service dedicated to roads, water-ways and transport (SRTCE) for the Valais. (16) (14) After three years of observations, Mme. Michelet concluded that the dumping of these objects into the lake was systematic and the pollution of her property periodic. According to her the maintenance of the canals (landscape maintenance) was responsible for a certain amount of debris that is liberated when heavy equipment is operated in the waterways. Citing the presence of grass clippings and the like she also suggested that a lot of this debris could be present in the environment and washed into the canal with the debris from other maintenance activities. (14) (16) Consequently, both services deny responsibility for the “trash in the water” citing article 5 of the law on the protection of water. On September 30 and October 7, 2016 Mme. Michelet is directed by both services to take up the subject with the local authorities. (15) (17) After three years Mme. Michelet found herself back at the starting point. Comments The descriptions of the debris furnished by Mme. Michelet would be appropriate for almost any beach on the lake or in Europe. The amount of debris is concerning, the density is probably greater than 90% of the locations on the lake and also greater than 90% of the samples from France, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom. (13) The amount of trash that is in the water is incompatible with the image that we have of ourselves as a country. The local and cantonal authorities seem to ignore the strategic importance of the Port-Valais in the health of the lake and the entire ecosystem downstream. The response from authorities is disconcerting, there is no investigation of type, quantity or origin of the debris. There is no expressed concern for Mme Michelet or the communities downstream. “…the visual indicators are still the same, Q-tips, components of toilet fresheners, tampon applicators, filters, condoms, single use eye droppers and similar, plastic caps, little tubes, medical blister packaging…everything that could be thrown in a toilette bowl, all of that mixed up with bits of wood and Styrofoam.” (14) “The screen (not operational when the there is a lot of water to avoid the Stockalper from overflowing) is 2km from the mouth of the canal and just upstream from the water treatment plant. On this distance, there is no other filter before the lake. I have no idea how often the water treatment plant overflows or other parameters.” (14) “It seems that your comments would put in doubt the good functioning of the water treatment plant, this does not correspond to the reality. This water treatment plant respects hands down all the requirements for discharge that are imposed…” (15) “For everything else We would like to remind you that, in accordance with article 5 of the Law cantonal on the protection of water (LcEaux) from May 16, 2013, the municipalities direct the interventions and reparations in the case of pollution or imminent danger of pollution on their territories, including the Rhone and the Lac Léman.” (15) “…and my impression, after diverse research on the environment makes me think that this situation is concerning and the pollution is on a large scale.” (14)
  7. 7. “The communities upstream have a responsibility to the communities and ecosystems downstream. That is why Switzerland, the water tower of Europe, does everything it can to reduce the amount of pollution transported by the Rhine” (15) This behavior by local authorities contrasts with the position of the Swiss Federal government. The ““National Surface Water Quality Monitoring program”, released in July 2016, clearly evokes our responsibility to those downstream of us to reduce the amount of pollution transported by the Rhine river. (8) Although the Rhone and Lac Leman are not identified specifically we can assume the same responsibilities can be assigned to the Rhone river basin and the communities upstream. Conclusion: Mme. Michelets concerns are well founded, her observations are similar to observations around the world in waterfront communities. When compared to results from other surveys from the lake and around Europe her property has a greater density than 90% of all the samples. If the president of Port-Valais is correct when he says “…the whole lake is concerned…” then Mme. Michelet is getting more than her faire share (link to study). Port-Valais has the authority and the responsibility to limit the garbage that flows through its territory. By allowing the trash from the cities upstream to flow unimpeded through its territory the Port-Valais is complicit in the pollution of the entire Lake. (3) (15) (17) Opportunities: The solutions start by periodic monitoring of the debris as it enters Port-Valais at different times of the year and informing the public of the results. By coordinating data collection with professionals in hydrology, civil engineering or waste water management the data can then be used to model cost effective solutions to filter or remove these objects from the canals before they reach the lake. As prevention programs reach the limits of efficiency it is time to seriously consider engineering solutions. There is room and need for innovation in the field of removing solid waste from municipal sources, specifically in retro-fitting existing systems. With a rich history of finding intelligent and reliable solutions to very complex problems, Switzerland is the ideal candidate for this type of research. Given the global nature of the problem, the geographic location of Switzerland and the current emphasis on reducing marine debris there may be an interest with European partners to stimulate product development and research on low cost engineering solutions. This is a hammerdirt publication For more information: info@hammerdirt.ch Image 1 : The shoreline in question on the day of the beach-liiter survey, 21 Sep 2016
  8. 8. ANNEX A Table 2: % composition of shoreline debris, Grand Clos, Lac Léman, MLW. GrandClos LacLéman MLW Polystyrene pieces 25.1% 20.9% 5.6% Plastic pieces 17.9% 12.3% 8.4% Candy and Chips bags 6.3% 6.1% 4.3% Cotton swabs 5.8% 4.5% 4.6% Industrial sheeting 5.6% 4.3% 0.1% Plastic caps drinks 4.4% 2.1% 5.6% Shotgun cartridges 3.9% 1.5% 0.9% Cigarette butts 3.5% 20.6% 17.9% Constuction waste 2.8% 1.7% 0.1% Plastic rings from caps 2.1% 1.3% 0.3% Everything else 22.1% 24.2% 52.1% Table 3: # of samples, max density and average density of Lac Léman surveys 2015- 2016 #ofsamples Maxdensity Avgdensity Baye de Clarens 13 8.5 3.3 Maladaire 2 12.2 11.9 Bain des Dames 1 34.9 34.94 Oyonne 1 22.4 22.4 Le Port LTDP 1 33.5 33.5 MRD 15 14.5 5.5 MRG 11 8.3 4.6 Pierrier Sud 1 39.5 39.56 Boiron 1 3.2 3.26 Vidy 1 6.8 6.87 Grand Clos 1 41.3 41.39 Thonnon 1 4.0 4.04 Pierrier 3 26.8 17.62 Arabie 3 50.0 26.28 Veveyse 13 5.4 3.40 Villa Barton 9 23.1 9.76 Jardin Botaque 3 15.3 8.64 Chart 4: Density of medical, hygiene and water treatment plant waste. Top ten survey results Lac Léman 2015-2016, pieces/meter of shoreline. * *The following items are included in chart 4: 1. Cotton swabs 2. Sanitary napkins/tampons and backing strips 3. Toilet fresheners 4. Medical containers and tubes 5. Biomass holders from sewage treatment plants 6. Other medical items – condoms, bandages 7. Cosmetics 8. Diapers 9. Syringes and needles Pieces per meter of shoreline For the complete analysis of all the surveys on Lac Léman see the publication “ln(beach-litter-density)”. (13) 0 2 4 6 8 Pierrier sud Le Port Bain des Dames Grand Clos Arabie Le Pierrier Le Pierrier Le Pierrier Villa Barton Vidy
  9. 9. Bibliography 1. Mange, Pierre. Letter from SPE Valais to Port-Valis. Sion, Valais, Switzerland : Service de la protection de l'environnement, 14 August 2013. Respone of the Canton to the letter from Mme Michelet. 2. Michelet, Marie-Christine. Mme Michelet second letter to SPE. Bouveret : s.n., 5 July 2014. Update and observations of Mme Michelet to the SPE. 3. Mange, Pierre. Second reply from SPE to Mme Michelet. Sion : Service de la protection de l'environnement, 9 July 2014. Canton tell Mme Michelet that the problem needs to be handled at the local level. 4. Klein, Audrey. Letter to Mme Michelt from Audrey Klein. Changins : Commission internationale pour la protection des eaux du Leman, 26 Augusr 2014. Mme Klein tells Mme Michelet thanks and go talk to surfrider. 5. Michelet, Marie-Christine. Merde vert des canaux - letter to conseil communal. Bouveret : s.n., 30 August 2016. Letter that accompnied two bags of trash to city hall. 6. Zoppelletto, Pierre. Entretien des Canaux - response from CC to Mme Michelet. Port-Valais : Conseil Communale, 12 September 2016. The city threatens Mme Michelet with legal action if she repeat her actions. 7. Michelet, Marie-Christine. Reply to president Zoppelletto. 18 September 2016. Mme Michelet reminds the president of the responsibilities fo the commune and give some examples. 8. Office fédéral de l'environnement. État des cours d'eau suisses - 1620:92S. 2016. 9. European Environment Agency. Marine Litter Watch Data Viewer. Marine Litter Watch. [En ligne] [Citation : 30 December 2016.] http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/coast_sea/marine-litterwatch/data-and-results/marine- litterwatch-data-viewer-1. 10. Technical subgroup on marine litter. Guidance on Monitoring of Marine Litter in European Seas. Joint research center, Institute for Environment and Sustainability. Ispra : European Commision, 2013. 11. OSPAR Commission. Guideline for monitoring marine litter on the beaches in the OSPAR maritime area. 2010. 12. Assemblée fédérale de la Confédération suisse. Loi fédérale sur la protection des eaux. Bern : s.n., 2016. 13. Erismann, Roger et Erismann, Shannon. Ln(beach-litter-density). La Tour-de-Peilz : s.n., 2016. Analysis of MCBP beach litter results from LAc Léman and comparison with OSPAR and MLW. 14. Michelet, Marie-Christine. Letter to SPE - Observations after beach litter surveys. Bouveret : s.n., 22 September 2016. Mme Mcihelet send an another description of the trash to the Valais - and links trash to Sockalper. 15. Mange, Pierre. Pollution from the Stockalper - response to Mme Michelet observations after beach litter survey. Sion : Service de la protection de l'environnement, 7 October 2016. Informs Mme Michelte that the water treatment plants meet the requirements and all other matters need to be taken to the commune. . 16. Michelet, Marie-Christine. Letter to SRTCE reporting observations of the solid waste in the canals. Bouveret : s.n., 22 September 2016. Mme Michelet gives detailed observations to the service responsible for water-ways, roads and transport. 17. Giles, Genoud. SRTCE response to Mme Michelet. Martigny : s.n., 30 September 2016. SRTC tells Mme Michelet that the rivers bring all kinds of things to the lake, but they are not resposible for trash in the water. The responsiblity belongs to the commune.. 18. United Nations. United Nations Environment Program. Marine Litter. [En ligne] [Citation : 4 January 2016.] http://www.unep.org/esm/Waterecosystems/WaterQuality/TheMarineLitter/tabid/131555/Default.aspx.

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