To improve our waters, you must start caring

August 22, 2011 

I am a pretty mild-mannered person, but this week I feel the need to do some trash talking.

So, what has happened to make me feel the need to get a few things off my chest? First and foremost I received an email that contained a report on the health of the May River by Dr. Fred Holland. If you are not familiar with Dr. Holland, his credentials as a steward of natural resources in South Carolina are impeccable. Recently retired, Dr. Holland served as the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hollings Marine Laboratory until his retirement in 2008. If that is not enough, he was also named the 2009 Environmental Awareness Award winner, and his help evaluating current and future problems with the May River have been real eye-openers for those of us who have read his assessments of the problems at hand.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I am extremely disappointed that more people who live right here in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area aren't getting involved in saving the lifestyle that brought so many of you here.

I have no doubt that many of you agree that something needs to be done, but what gets my goat is this: Thinking it is one thing, but the only real way things are going to change is through personal involvement. Instead of screaming bloody murder, it appears many of us are content to sit there and let someone else do the screaming. That is not acceptable.

When the oyster beds were closed in the upper portion of the May River due to high fecal counts, did it ever occur to you that maybe it was time to attend a town meeting and voice your displeasure over the inaction of our local government?

That is my point.

If you think some magic fairy is going to hap along, wave her magic wand and all will be well, then so be it, because our fate is sealed and it isn't going to be pretty. Saving our waters is the responsibility of each and every one of us, and it starts with the smallest tasks -- tasks that take just a few moments from your day.

Need an example? How about this. You are walking down by the river and see a beer can or plastic bag lying there. Do you take the time to lean over and pick up the trash or do you walk by it and think, "whoever threw that there should be shot!"

Or better yet, you are out boating and see a white plastic bag floating by. Do you take a few seconds to stop and pluck it out of the water? Sadly, most of us go right on by.

This is the type of personal involvement that I am talking about. Just imagine if all of us took the time to perform these simple tasks. Our waters would probably cry with joy.

The larger issues like groundwater runoff will take professional help like that which Dr. Holland has so graciously offered, but even in this arena you can make a huge difference. It seems that examples work best, so here's one: You go in your shed to get gas for your lawnmower and realize the gas in the can is old. So what do you do with it? I would guess you pour it on the ground. What difference does a little gas make? Do you see where I am going with this? Multiply one gallon of gas on the ground times thousands of residents and it does make a difference -- a lethal difference.

Unless we all start changing our daily habits, we are pretty much doomed because population projections only indicate that groundwater runoff is going to be the death of our waters.

Even worse are the town's proposed corrections to groundwater runoff, such as stormwater ponds in key areas. According to Dr. Holland, these ponds can help, but only if done correctly -- and thus far, the town of Bluffton has not offered enough information so that their effectiveness can be evaluated.

Once again, if we show up at town meetings in force and demand that this information be provided, only then can effective proposals be made.

I'll bet you didn't know I had a grumpy side. When it comes to the resource that has made more of a difference in my life than any other, I am a fanatic. Every day my wife, Karen, and I walk to the Brighton Beach area and pick up trash. None of it is ours, but we do it simply because we love this place. Sadly, each one of these walks produces a huge bag of trash and that tells me people simply don't care.

Unless we all start caring, the writing is on the wall for our way of life here. Involvement is all it takes to turn things around.

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