Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France

28/05/10

First spotted in 2009, small round pieces of plastic are being washed up on beaches in France, Spain, Portugal, Marocco, Algeria, and other countries. Some even appeared further afield, namely in the United States and Canada. These wheels have a diameter of one to three centimeters and may be white, blue, green, or black. They act as a support medium for the bacteria which digest waterborne organic matter in certain wastewater treatment plants. Called 'bio media' or 'biofilters', they spill from the basins at the treatment plants after heavy rainfall, or following an accidental operating fault. Paradoxically, out of a desire to clean the water arises a new environmental pollutant.

Faced with pollution whose perpetrator is unknown, the Keeper and volunteer at the SFE Basque Coast, François, has engaged in some very extensive research. As the case is unfolding, this investigation, which started as a local 'Keepers of the Coast' fight, is now taking on international dimensions. In fact, following a new occurrence of these pollutants on the 8th of November 2012 in Seignosse, a call for mobilization was launched on the social networking sites, through the SFE chapter network, and directly with the SFE members in the Landes Region and the Basque Country (over 3,500 people). As a result, we discovered that bio media were also present in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Seine River, and even in Switzerland. Fully aware of this new source of pollution, Surfrider is attempting to count the bio media found during every beach clean-up to support the Keeper in his investigations. This year, information on bio media and quantification charts were added to the record sheets of the Ocean Initiatives. During the Ocean Initiatives this March, a new type of bio media was listed that had hitherto not been found.  A status report was issued on the pollutant with the objective to propose solutions for more reasonable use of this water purification medium.

If you would like to inform us of a bio media discovery in a watercourse or on a beach, or if you can help us understand the origins of this pollutant, or even if you wish to receive further information, you can contact François by sending a message to the SFE Basque Coast Chapter website.

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