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Volunteers clean up Mount Sinai Harbor Beach

Hamza Khan, 17, a junior at Mount Sinai

Hamza Khan, 17, a junior at Mount Sinai High School, spent five hours cleaning up debris along a half-mile stretch of beach during the 5th annual Mount Sinai Harbor Beach Cleanup. He found a car battery buried in the sand. (Jan. 5, 2013) Credit: Brittany Wait

Hannah Pawluk found a tire with a rusted rim half-buried in the sand during the 5th annual Mount Sinai Harbor Beach Cleanup on Saturday.

The Mount Sinai High School senior added the tire to a pile of plastic bottles, driftwood and fishing lures.

“It goes to show that our society is polluting our environment,” said Pawluk, 17, of Mount Sinai. “It’s sad to see this, but it’s nice to know that we can help to keep the Sound beautiful.”

Pawluk was among the 20 high school students and 10 residents that spent five hours cleaning up debris scattered along a half-mile of beach from Crystal Brook Hollow Road to the jetty.

David Chase, a science teacher at the school, brought his marine sciences students to collect trash buried in the sand or scattered along the shoreline to inspire them.

“They begin to realize how much litter there really is in our environment,” said Chase, 68, of Shoreham. “I want them to take away from this experience that if we all do our part in contributing to protecting our environment then, perhaps, we can turn this around.”

While using a litter stick to pick up small pieces of plastic, students Hamza Khan, 17, and Chris Colosi, 16, stumbled upon a car battery that washed up on shore.

“This is better than sitting at home,” said Colosi, a junior. “We dug it out of the sand with our bare hands. It’s pretty amazing what you’ll find here. Earlier, we found something that looked like a genie’s lantern and before that we found a dead horseshoe crab.”

In 2005, David Johnson founded Coastal Steward, a nonprofit that focuses on environmental restoration on Long Island, initiating beach cleanups and shellfish restoration projects.

“We started doing these beach cleanups back in 1989,” said Johnson, 54, of Port Jefferson Station. “A bunch of college buddies and I had heard about the International Coastal Cleanup and thought it sounded like a good idea. I loved it, so I wanted to do it again every year.”

Because volunteers record what they find, Johnson said he has noticed a grim trend.

“Some of the trends," he said, are "very disturbing. There has been a rise in the number of syringes we find. Last year, we found 72. The year before, we found 76. When I started doing this, you didn’t find any.”

Filled with a passion to clean up beaches as often as possible, Johnson hopes to inspire the students to continue cleanup efforts on their own.

“I think that everybody should make an effort,” Johnson said. “This is our community. We live on an island and it needs some TLC. It needs to be cleaned and we are so much more efficient than a governmental agency because of our volunteers.”

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