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800 pieces of plastic collected in over an hour Jones Beach

S.P.L.A.S.H. building a new cleanup boat for spring

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She’s only been living in Bellmore since October. Originally from Massapequa, Jacqueline LeDuc, 29, has been volunteering with Operation S.P.L.A.S.H. in Freeport since moving back to Long Island from Maui, Hawaii. Though she grew up near the water, it wasn’t until she moved to Hawaii where she started working with marine life that she fell in love with the ocean.

“As I’m falling in love with the ocean, I’m also seeing the destruction,” she said. “I’m seeing the coral reefs bleaching, plastic floating by and fish eating plastic. That’s when I thought ‘I can love the ocean help the ocean.”

“Our trash is killing our marine life,” executive director of S.P.L.A.S.H., Robert Weltner said as he reviewed the trash that LeDuc collected from Field 6 at Jones Beach.

On Dec. 22, LeDuc spent an hour and a half walking throughout Field 6 at Jones Beach. When she finished she packed her trash bags and headed home. Curiously, she sifted through the garbage and organized it. She was shocked at the amount of trash she collected — over 800 pieces of plastic and 350 of the types aren’t listed. Her finding included bottle caps, straws, balloons, cigarette buts, bread bag clips, hair ties, floss sticks, an Adidas hat that still looked fairly new and dozens of plastic bags.

“I was only out there for an hour and a half and I didn’t cover a big area,” she said. “The most interesting piece was a half of a $20 bill.”

Through her volunteer efforts at S.P.L.A.S.H., LeDuc is captain to one of the seven boats cleans the bays, as well as helping Weltner and volunteer Jim Hackett build a new boat to replace the original 23-year-old Remsen Built boat that is out of commission. Weltner shared he has hopes that the new vessel can be completed by Earth Day, April 22 to send the boat on its maiden voyage in bays and canal cleanups.

“We’re fortunate to have volunteers,” Weltner said. Though S.P.L.A.S.H.’s season won’t start again until April, Weltner said there’s still a lot of work to get done, particularly with the organization’s educational programs that teach second graders through high school seniors about the environment. Weltner and LeDuc agreed that teaching people how to properly dispose of things helps to reduce the environmental impact on land and the ocean.

Volunteers for the coming season are needed for at least two hours a week, Weltner said.