“It was heartbreaking to see”

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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PREVENT POLLUTION: Lithium batteries found by the Nelson brothers, off the coast of Safata.

PREVENT POLLUTION: Lithium batteries found by the Nelson brothers, off the coast of Safata. (Photo: Stephen and Richard Nelson)

The Nelson brothers were out to enjoy Samoa’s sandy beaches when they came across more than 10 kilogrammes of lithium battery found around the coast of Safata. 

Richard and Stephen were disappointed after uncovering the batteries and took their frustration on social media. 

Richard pointed out that walking along the coast of Samoa; you’ll be seeing white sandy beaches and lush vegetation teaming with life both on the shore and in the sea. 

“This wasn’t the case when my brother Stephen Nelson and I went for a walk hoping for a dip. It was peak low tide so that was a fail in itself, our one chance on our four-day trip to swim in waters we grew up with as children." 

“It’s 20 mins up the coast from a surf resort in Tafitoala is an old church building that still stands and a few graves, according to the friendly manager.” 

According to Richard, turtles use this particular stretch of the coast for spawning their young in the mangroves.  

“And I hate to think of what effect this has had on them. So we ventured out noticing green slimy bubbly sand along the shore." 

“I swear we walked for more than 20 minutes. On the way back, I noticed a large battery in the sand. Then another and another, it was heartbreaking to see." 

“When we couldn’t carry more batteries in our hands, my brother went down to his jocks just so we could tie up the legs of his shorts to use as a bag and get rid of as many batteries as we could." 

“I carried over 10kgs back to the resort to show the guy and dispose of it the right way." 

“There were more I wish we could’ve picked up and that was only what we saw. Whether this are the actions of irresponsible ignorant people or the aftermath of the devastating tsunamis and cyclones that my dear motherland family and people have had to endure, there is only one thing we can do, take care of our country we are so blessed to call home." 

“I hate pollution and we are all responsible to act now to prevent more of it going forward, don’t wait for someone else to do something - we might be too late,” stated Richard. 

His brother Stephen expressed similar sentiments. 

“I hate seeing my home in such a state, so this is me raising my voice for others to hopefully hear and share the message. 

“Maybe we can do something about this, for all those who love Samoa; this is the current state of Tafitoala. 

“Beaches littered with old decaying zinc carbon batteries.

“Tafitoala beach is dying, if not dead already. Richard and I went to look for a spot to swim only to find nearly 10kgs of these batteries sitting in the sand and rock over a stretch of 2km.   

“Who knows how many more are still buried and still decaying in the water, killing the wildlife, killing the coast, killing the coral and polluting the water.

“I don’t wish to blame anyone, but to make a difference it starts with one act,” said Stephen. 

Environmentalist and Climate Change Communicator, Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, who is Oceans and Climate Change Manager for the Pacific Islands Programme for Conservation International, also expressed concerns. 

Responding to questions from the Samoa Observer, Lagipoiva noted how unfortunate it is to see the number of batteries found in this particular coastal area. 

“These types of irresponsible dumping of toxic waste into our oceans have extremely detrimental impacts on our marine ecosystems. 

“It is well known that batteries contain toxic metals such as cadmium and mercury, lead and lithium, which become hazardous waste and pose threats to health and the environment if improperly disposed. These chemicals such as nickel and cadmium are extremely toxic and can cause damage to humans and the environment. 

“Improper or careless handling of waste batteries can result in release of corrosive liquids and dissolved metals that are toxic to marine life. 

“It is important at every level for our communities to take responsibility for our beaches and coastal areas, through community-based management and enforcement of wise conservation practices.” 

According to Lagipoiva, many villages have shown leadership in this area and it would be very encouraging to see more actually replicate these positive practices like fines or punishment for dumping in villages. 

“For example, in the village of Satupaitea, they fine people for dumping in the ocean, this is a positive waste management practice and I highly encourage this model. 

“There is also the Samoa Waste Management Association who can provide advice and services to villages on wise waste management practices,” pointed out Lagipoiva.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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