Ocean County Residents Fight to Preserve Barnegat Bay
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Barnegat Bay, a fairly large expanse of brackish water that runs along 42 miles of the South Jersey coast (between the white sandy beaches of Island State Park and the confines of Lanoka Harbor), represents one of the greatest ecological treasures in the state. The Bay hosts a wide variety of creatures (crabs, fish, birds and other wildlife) as well as humans. 560,000 people currently call this area home, but that home has come under fire recently with the substantial increase in superstorms, such as Sandy, which hit in October of 2012.

A new proposition

While numerous conservation efforts are currently underway, a $2 million portable storm water treatment system could be a key instrument in preserving the health of the bay. Runoff from storm water discharge has led local officials to take a step back and consider a new approach to reduce the amount of contaminants in the water, thus they decided a portable treatment system was necessary. The traditional method involved the use of jetvac trucks that flush and pump water from storm drains. After the water, the drivers then discharge the fluid into one of three Ocean County Utilities Authority regional treatment centers.

The new treatment system simplifies the time consuming process, and could greatly reduce the levels of nitrogen in the bay area. According to Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari, one of the lead advocates for the system, the county will “be able to do more with less labor. We can treat more water with less time and less money.”

How does the new system work?

The system reduces travel time from site to site by combining all of the tools from the previous project into one device. Water is collected from the storm drain, treated on site, and discharged back into the cleaned drain. The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders now has to wait for their grant application to be approved by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust. If approved, the revolutionary treatment system could have widespread implications for the area and help reverse the declining health of Barnegat Bay.

Is there anything we can do in the meantime?

Do your best to prevent runoff. Greater than 60 percent of the nitrogen entering the bay occurs in northern Ocean County because it’s more developed. If you live anywhere in or along the bay, we urge you to follow these steps from the EPA that are designed to prevent runoff. Be especially careful with the amount of fertilizer you put on your lawn, as those chemicals could end up in the fresh water that runs into Barneget Bay, jeopardizing your water supply.

You can also volunteer for the Barnegat Bay Partnership. With your help, they hope to restore, protect, and enhance the natural resources of the estuary.