It’s happened to all of us. You’re at the beach, frolicking out in the waves, having fun, until you realize that … ugh … you need to pee.
Who hasn’t felt the urge and temptation? You valiantly resist, but you also don’t want to slog back to the beach, towel off and trudge even farther over the hot sand to a restroom. But then you step into one of those ocean cold spots and it’s all over. You have to go.
The American Chemical Society got some recent attention for a YouTube post, declaring that – from a chemical standpoint, at least – it’s OK to pee in the ocean.
In the Society’s video, they point out that our average urine is more than 95 percent water. The ocean has a higher concentration of sodium and chloride ions than our 1 or 2 grams per liter. Plus, our urine contains small amounts of nitrogen (which, when combined with ocean water, makes ammonium) and potassium – both of which feed ocean plant life.
All the urine that may end up in the ocean from beach-goers is vastly diluted, the ACS says, noting that the volume of the Atlantic Ocean is 350 quintillion liters. (That’s 350 with 18 zeros.)
Most compellingly, the ACS points out that every animal in the ocean pees in the ocean! Their example: a fin whale releases 250 gallons of urine each day. (Considering that, perhaps the question is why anyone would want to swim in the ocean at all!)
The Society doesn’t mention the bacteria and alarming levels of pharmaceuticals that come out in a community’s collective urine. But, rightly so, it does stress that you shouldn’t pee anywhere near a coral reef or other protected area. And definitely not in swimming pools.
What about in Long Island Sound? Historically, too much of what we flush has not been, er … flushed out of the Sound. Because of the closed nature of the Sound’s geography, the Sound’s western basin doesn’t receive a regular full tidal refreshing. Like Vegas, what goes in the Sound stays in the Sound. Municipalities have spent millions of dollars to upgrade their sewage-treatment plants to improve the Sound’s quality.
So would your peeing in the water off Calf Pasture Beach be a setback? Would the Sound’s oyster beds have to be closed for a day? No. The ACS’s reasonings apply as well to Long Island Sound and its 18 trillion gallons of water. (That’s 18 with 12 zeros.)
Perhaps worth noting, however, is that peeing where someone can see you peeing can get you arrested for indecency and public urination. So if you really must pee in the ocean, you had better be in the ocean with a swimsuit on.
What about in The Maritime Aquarium? Obviously, our resident marine animals release urine. We make sure their environments remain fresh and clean by using large filtration systems and/or by changing their water regularly. And we do insist that visitors use the restrooms!
– Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist
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