The Navesink River Is Getting Cleaner, Say Advocates

February 13, 2019
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Michael Humphreys of Red Bank collected a water quality sample at Marine Park in Red Bank in February 2018.
Photo by Jay Cook/File

By Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen

The Navesink River water quality has improved so much it is on track to meet or exceed its 2020 restoration goal, according to Rally for the Navesink, a project of Clean Ocean Action.

About 50 people attended Rally for the Navesink’s first public meeting of 2019 at Rumson’s Bingham Hall. Clean Ocean Action (COA) launched Rally for the Navesink in 2016 after 565 acres of the river was downgraded and condemned for shellfishing due to pathogen pollution caused by fecal contaminations. Protection of the Shrewsbury River is also part of its mission.

Swarna Muthukrishnan, a COA staff scientist, spoke about the collaborative effort to find and fix sources of pollution that includes 26 local organizations, citizen volunteers, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and poop-sniffing dogs from Environmental Canine Services (ECS), based in Maine.

“COA has collaborated with NJDEP to conduct innovative human fecal source track down screening tests in these waters using scent-trained canines,” Muthukrishnan said. “COA is also the field coordinator for the COA-DEP ambient bacteria source track down and monitoring from about 20 ‘hot spot’ locations of concern throughout the watershed to fix these sources.”

Allison Meyerhoff, marketing and communications coordinator for Clean Ocean Action in Highlands, said, “It’s about find it, fix it, no blame.”

For instance, in Red Bank four sources of human waste were found and fixed, with a fifth under further investigation. In Fair Haven a severed sewer main was found and fixed and another damaged pipe proved to be the source of bacteria in Fourth Creek. Rain gardens are planned in Red Bank and Fair Haven to reduce stormwater runoff.

Little Silver in Legos

The organization also has developed education programs for grades K-12 and a “First Five” program – the first five actions that individual towns, businesses, schools and citizens should do to improve the water quality of the Navesink.

The organization’s next scheduled public meetings are 7 p.m. March 28, May 30, July 25 and Sept. 26 at Bingham Hall, Rumson. For more information see the Facebook page or call 732-872-0111.

This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.

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