This month features three activists sharing the spotlight -- Jane Hatfield, Melea Emunah & Megan Turmon -- all hailing from the Branson School Water Testing Team, Marin County, California. Since 2007, the student scientists of the Branson School Water Testing Team have been running a Blue Water Test Force lab at their school under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The Marin County Chapter supports this lab financially, and chapter volunteers collect weekly water samples at area beaches and deliver them to Branson School where these dedicated student volunteers process the samples in the lab and record the results online.
Q: Will you complete the following sentence: Hi my name is NAME, and I am Surfrider because…
Jane: Hi my name is Jane Hatfield, and I am Surfrider because I want to contribute to saving our California beaches and oceans!
Melea: Hi my name is Melea Emunah, and I am Surfrider because I seek to inspire my family and peers to appreciate and sustain our magnificent, awe-inspiring, and unique environment.
Megan: Hi my name Megan Turmon, and I am Surfrider because I care about our oceans and want to do whatever I can to help them.
Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
Group Answer: We all began testing ocean water samples for the Marin County Chapter’s Blue Water Task Force in 2014. Graduating seniors, Jane Swart and Brook Raabe, trained us all on how to process the water samples at the Surfrider lab here in our school. We were thrilled to join, not only because it allowed us to participate in monitoring our local water quality, but also because our data is part of a larger movement that can be a catalyst for change in perspective and policy in our community.
Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
Group Answer: We all volunteer with the Blue Water Task Force water quality monitoring program, and have attended several Marin County Surfrider beach clean ups!
Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?
Group Answer: Some local issues that are affecting our oceans currently have to do with climate change and sea levels rising. For example, rising sea levels are starting to affect Ocean Beach by causing major erosion. This erosion greatly affects the maintenance of the underground sewage systems, which could threaten water quality. Another more persistent and common issue is that there is an excessive amount of dog waste affecting the water quality in many bodies of water throughout the bay area. Our water testing at Bay Front Park usually reveals large presence of bacteria due to this dog waste affecting the water.
Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider’s BWTF program?
Group Answer: When others ask about our water quality testing program, the most important thing I tell them is that it is extremely important to understand that bodies of water might not always be safe to swim in, and I would also explain how our data reveals the effect of human and human related waste on water quality.
Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience?
Jane: The highlight of my Surfrider experience so far would have to be the weeks when the Bay Front Park water samples don't have any enterococcus bacteria present, since it represents clean and healthy water conditions! These results are so exciting since Bay Front is notorious for usually having a large concentration of the bacteria, indicating contaminated water. It has been so rewarding to look back and see the many data entries we have entered, since we know the data can be used by anyone to learn about the water quality at the three beaches we monitor.
Melea: Recently, we have consistently found moderate to high amounts of Enterococci bacteria in water from some of our beaches. This bacteria is often found in fecal matter, so it could likely originate from sewage leaks or other contaminated runoff. In the past few months, the city of Mill Valley has begun the process of increasing regulations for lateral sewage pipes. We are convinced that our water quality tests have influenced the city's decisions.
Megan: The highlight of my Surfrider experience is seeing the change of the bacteria level each week. It is always very exciting to check and especially when there is no bacteria at all it is always a great thing to see.