Important headlines – Surfing with sharks isn't as dangerous as the needles

Important headlines for July 9th  Surfing with sharks isn't as dangerous as swimming with needles... 

Bottom Line: These are stories you shouldn't miss and my takes on them... 

  • Beach cleanup group: Medical waste on Palm Beach shore getting worse – Palm Beach Post 

Excerpt: Blood vials, syringes, IV pouches, hypodermic needles and even surgical knives are washing up on town beaches. 

It’s always been a problem but lately the medical refuse is more abundant, said Diane Buhler, founder of the Friends of Palm Beach group that volunteers to pick up trash on town beaches. 

“When the lancets started to wash in, it took it to another level for us,” Buhler said in an email. “We hadn’t seen them in the last four years. The amount of medical waste [is] more abundant in all types … but the lancets … made it more abhorrent.” 

Beach cleanup volunteers to the north and south of Palm Beach aren’t seeing nearly as much of the medical debris as the island, Buhler told the Town Council last month. 

There’s no state or county agency that takes responsibility for stopping the dumping, she said. 

Buhler said she will collaborate with students at Florida Atlantic University to try to determine the origin of the refuse, but it’s not easy. “My theory is it’s ships, dumping out to sea,” she said. “But it’s just bigger than me to figure out where this stuff is coming from.” 

Buhler said she has traced some of the medical labels to Cuba. Some of the hypodermic needles were made for horses. 

The Gulf Stream current, which picks up and carries the refuse, flows closer to Palm Beach County than anywhere else in Florida.  

Hot Take: For over 20 years I've had near daily experience in enjoying, surveying and unfortunately doing a small-part to attempt to clean up beaches and waterways. There've been interesting takeaways, like learning that about an inch of Tybee Island, Georgia shifts from one side of the island to the other per year. Witnessing a Great White from that same island before the tagging of Whites was taking place on the east coast of the US and it was understood that they came so far south – was another huge highlight from way back when...  

There've also been meaningful findings in South Florida like learning that a significant part of the beach erosion problem in parts of SFL is due to the man-made inlets and the maintenance of those inlets into the intra-coastal. I've also found mixed truths to the sea level rise that dominates certain circles in SFL. For example, the original beach road predating A1A in South Florida is permanently underwater – so without a doubt there's been sea level rise. The flip side is that it's been under water for over a hundred years, so it wasn't the result of modern man-made factors and anecdotally I observed the lowest, low-tide I've seen outside of storm-induced factors within the past month.  

I've said all of that to get to this point. Without a doubt the trash, debris, medical and otherwise is easily the worst it's ever been. I'm continually collecting more trash and debris that's washed up and floating than ever before. And yes, it's unfortunately not uncommon to find needles and related devices. Sadly, there are times I'm having to wear gloves to remove garbage. It's a real and growing problem with no end in sight. Everyone needs to do their part to be as responsible as possible. It's not uncommon for me to fill a large contracting bucket worth of garbage and recyclables from the same two-mile stretch every day or two. Fixing over 90 years' worth of man-made manipulation of Lake O, the Everglades and our waterways isn't easy. Being more responsible when in and around water is.  

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