NAGS HEAD — Many times when they visit the coast and head out for a day on the beach, people ask each other, “How’s the water?” Drop by Jennette’s Pier today to get some answers.
Staff members from the N.C. Coastal Federation are at the pier every Thursday afternoon this summer to help answer questions about water quality and conservation. They’ll have activities you can take part in, artifacts to view and live animals to see in the pier’s tanks. You can test your knowledge on what causes water pollution by playing a fun water drop matching game, and kids can walk away with a Federation temporary tattoo.
Federation staff will explain what factors are putting coastal habitats at risk and they’ll share updates on local restoration projects along the Outer Banks. The free program will help you learn about North Carolina’s waterways and the interesting animals that call our coast home and find out what you can do to help protect them.
On most Thursday, you’ll find Sara Hallas at the pier surrounded by bones and shells. “I put out animal artifacts to get people intrigued to stop by and ask questions,” says Hallas, a federation educator. “From sea turtle shells and skulls, to whale vertebrae or a dolphin skull, we relate that the animals need clean water too. It’s fun to hear people try and identify the artifacts.”
Sometimes she brings along a bag of oysters shells and talks about the central role oysters play in the health of our estuaries and about federation projects to restore oyster reefs at nearby Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
“It’s fitting because right next to me in the pier tanks are red and black drum and other species we’ve found while monitoring the reefs at Jockey’s Ridge,” Hallas explains. “So I can explain how special the estuarine habitats are.”
Most people who stop by the table want to know the causes of water pollution, says Hallas. Stormwater, she tells them.
“This gets our conversation going,” she says. “From the youngest visitor to the oldest, I love asking this basic question to everyone and enjoy hearing a variety of creative answers. Usually, no matter what they say I can incorporate into my explanation of stormwater runoff and helping them see the big picture.”
Erin Fleckenstein, a coastal scientist for the federation, notes that runoff polluted with bacteria and sediments is the largest cause of water impairment in the state. “In order to continue enjoying our waters we need to do what is necessary to keep them clean and healthy,” she says. “By offering outreach programs like this to keep the public informed and engaged, we feel that this can be achieved.”
Tommy Reynolds, a local banker and surfer, says he has felt the effects of stormwater runoff. “We had just had some storms pass through and I decided to head out for surf,” he says. “Everything was normal, except how I felt for the next two days. I had a fever, complete body aches, facial swelling and nausea. It was like the flu, on steroids.”
All people can do simple things to reduce the flow of polluted runoff, Fleckenstein says. They can pick after their pets and not fertilize before heavy rains. “Simply installing cisterns and gutters can make a big difference,” she said. If we can get the rainfall redirected into our yards for absorption, before reaching the sea then we’ve already accomplished something.”
The program will be offered every Thursday, starting at 1 p.m. See the federation’s Events Calendar for more information.