Local Residents Urged to “Invest in the Navesink”

March 8, 2017
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Clean Ocean Action’s Cindy Zipf tells supporters of plans to correct the elevated pollution levels currently affecting the Navesink River. Photo by John Burton

By John Burton |

SEA BRIGHT – A cleaner, more sustainable Navesink River is obtainable in the coming three years, was the message Clean Ocean Action’s executive director delivered to supporters this week.

“We know what to do…We have the tools,” to again clean up the waterway, said Cindy Zipf, executive director for Clean Ocean Action, an education and advocacy organization.

Zipf joined others with her organization and supporters at McLoone’s Rum Runner restaurant, 816 Ocean Ave., Sunday night for an event deemed a “Rally for the Navesink.”

The briefing on the condition of the river offered “investment opportunities” for supporters, seeking donations for the environmental organization’s efforts to improve the quality of the area river, Zipf said of the event.

Clean Ocean Action had conducted its own analysis and report on the river’s condition, indicating a rising amount of contaminants, and has been working with an unprecedented number of other, diverse organizations, to effect a change and bring about a cleaner water way.

Clean Ocean Action board member Bonnie Torcivia told of living in Fair Haven, with her home overlooking the Navesink River, and of watching the almost daily traffic of boats make its way along the waterway – “the parade going by my window every day.”

“The river looks so beautiful,” Torcivia told the gathering. “But looks can be deceiving.”

Zachary Lees, the organization’s ocean and coastal policy attorney, explained what has been happening with the Navesink over decades, going from when it was “The crown jewel of the shellfish industry,” a century ago and then as it became increasingly polluted due to rate of development, industrialization and the overharvesting of local shellfish population. But things began to turnaround by the early 1970s with the introduction of stricter federal laws governing water pollution. The pollution backslide, however, began registering with the state Department of Environmental Protection about a decade ago and has continued to increase, causing the state agency to classify about 565 acres of the water area contaminated to the point that shellfish harvesting is not permitted.

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State officials and environmentalists have indicated the river has contaminants such as fecal chloroform, from humans, wildlife and domestic animals, as well as other pathogens.

The river’s condition last summer led to the cancellation of summer camp programs that rely on river access, said Zipf. “Our quality of life in the watershed was significantly threatened,” Zipf said.

Given the pollutants, “It’s also an ecosystem health issue,” Lees added.

But a concerted effort has been undertaken by approximately 35 different and diverse organizations – beyond just environmental groups and including governmental entities, community groups and local elected officials. “And it’s growing,” Zipf said.

Correcting the problem involves identifying the sources of the contamination, stopping it and educating the public, getting them to change longstanding practices, Zipf and Lees explained.

But the efforts will cost upward of $300,000 to continue the work, she added.

It’s vital to stop the public from using storm drains as a catchall for personal products, such as motor and cooking oil and other waste material; and to limit the amount of impervious ground covering from development, which add to contaminated storm water runoff making its way into the river and eventually the Atlantic Ocean, the environmentalists stressed.

Clean Ocean Action also hopes to continue to use specially trained dogs to sniff human fecal matter and help locate sources and to correct the situation, Zipf said.

It is possible to improve the river’s water quality by 2020, Zipf believes.

“Let’s all help to write a happy sequel, written by all of us,” Torcivia said.

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