NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Marine Debris Community Cleanup in Leone

Leave a comment

On Friday, four of us participated in a volunteer shoreline cleanup in the village of Leone. Leone was one of the hardest hit villages in American Samoa, with loss of life and destruction of property. It’s located toward the southwest end of the island. The cleanups are done in a few different villages and organized by the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. Village residents, DMWR personnel, and other volunteers participate. We gathered in the shade (it’s hot even at 8:30am!) to wait for everyone to gather.

Part of the group receives a briefing on our cleanup mission.


We could see the remnants of the tsunami’s destruction even though much of the debris had been cleared away: concrete slabs with no house left, twisted roofs on structures still standing, crushed vehicles.

The height and force of the tsunami can be imagined
from the folding and ripping of corrugated iron roofing.
FEMA-provided tents can be seen on the left.

Our group of about 20 started working our way from one point at the edge of the village back toward the center. Some of the land-side debris was from the tsunami, and poignant in its reminder of the disrupted lives. Some was not clearly from the tsunami—it may have been garbage dumped over the slope, but it was still destined to get in the water.

A valentine and a child’s shoe are among the shoreline debris collected.

The origin and date of some shoreline debris
on the slope above the water could not be determined.

Over the course of about three hours, including breaks, I estimate we collected about 30 mega-garbage bags of debris, plus large items that couldn’t fit in bags. The DMWR folks were so good at loading up and hauling away that I didn’t get a good count. However, it seemed that we made a pretty good dent in the land debris.

DMWR pickup truck filled with bags of debris
and topped with metal and fabric.

For the last hour, a few of us got in the water thinking we’d snorkel around and get an idea of how much debris was on the reef flat, maybe pick up a bit of debris and put it in a basket atop a boogie board. However, we had barely gotten our heads in the water before we started seeing debris, especially yards and yards of fabric draped across coral heads.

Fabric draped over coral heads in Leone Bay.

We worked nonstop pulling out corrugated metal roofing, fabric and clothing, and the odd pot or pan. We didn’t do a comprehensive survey (or any survey at all, really), but we felt we’d barely scratched the surface. Still, there’s something intensely satisfying about helping out with a marine debris cleanup.

Steering an over-full basket atop a tippy boogie
board. The load was mostly a Christmas decoration.

After the cleanup we met at Lions Park to enjoy food donated by several of the village residents who had lost the most.

We enjoyed spaghetti, pisupu (corned beef), tuna salad,
and KFC at the relaxing and picturesque Lions Park.

Oh, and by the way, while we were helping with the cleanup, the remaining eight members of the team arrived, about 12 hours late. Their flight had turned around partway here and returned to Honolulu. We were sure glad to see them.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s