EPA Expands Efforts to Protect Coastal Waters and New York/New Jersey Harbor
(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled today an expanded New York Bight Coastal Monitoring program to study the ocean and collaborate with state and local governments to protect the coastal waters of New York and New Jersey. Using helicopters, ships and cutting edge technologies, the Agency’s scientific assessments will go farther than ever.
“Clean coastal waters are among EPA’s highest priorities,” reiterated Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “We are moving to create a more effective and comprehensive ocean monitoring program, focusing on improved methods to protect beach-goers and coastal communities. Let there be no mistake, EPA’s monitoring activities this summer in the New York/New Jersey harbor and along Long Island and New Jersey coasts include an impressive array of surveillance, sampling and funding activities.”
In a new development, EPA will augment efforts to track and examine patterns of dissolved oxygen, among other indicators, in order to examine and find effective solutions to improve water quality in the entire New York Bight. The expanded dissolved oxygen program will be implemented in conjunction with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection utilizing various state and federal vessels including the Ocean Survey Vessel BOLD and the KENNETH BIGLANE. The program will collect information over a wider geographic area, more scientific parameters, and at 3 different depths. State of the art equipment will be utilized to collect information about water from the surface to the bottom, looking at parameters such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity and pH. In the past EPA collected a single bottom sample for dissolved oxygen. Water samples will also be collected at the surface, middle, and bottom for each location.
Other New York Bight Coastal Monitoring Program Highlights:
Floatables Surveillance Overflights: The EPA helicopter, the Coastal Crusader, will continue to fly over the New Jersey/New York Harbor Complex six days a week, starting May 21 through September 7. These flights are conducted to identify floating debris slicks and to coordinate cleanups with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to prevent washups on the beaches of New York and New Jersey. In addition, any observed oil slicks will be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard for mitigation, for the purpose of containing the slicks and preventing washups on the beaches.
Shellfish Bed Monitoring Program: An EPA helicopter will be used to collect water quality samples to assist the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in meeting commitments to the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. To support this program, phytoplankton samples will be collected along the New Jersey coast, in Raritan Bay, Sandy Hook Bay, Barnegat Bay, Great Bay and Delaware Bay, four times this summer in late June, early July, late July and late August. Samples will also be collected for fecal contamination at 26 stations along the Long Island coast from Rockaway to Shinnecock Inlet six times this summer. In addition, a $50,000 grant is being awarded to NJDEP to monitor for toxic pollutants in shellfish and to expand the effectiveness of its risk communication program.
Beach Monitoring & Notification Program: Under the federal BEACH Act, to date, $1.5 million dollars has been awarded to NJDEP to support its beach monitoring program with local health departments in implementing recreational beach monitoring and notification programs. An additional $440,000 will be given to NJDEP this year to continue its beach monitoring and notification program, to conduct a study of a rapid test method for harmful pathogens and to conduct intensive sanitary surveys at high priority beaches. Research studies have determined that water quality samples need to be collected in the surf zone; samples collected offshore do not represent water quality conditions for bathers. Thanks to continued BEACH Act funding, the counties and local communities will continue to monitor the beaches weekly as part of the state’s comprehensive coastal monitoring program.
Rapid Test Method Research: In addition, EPA scientists, in close cooperation with NJDEP, will use water samples collected by health departments in Monmouth and Ocean Counties to do a special side-by-side comparison of two different tests used to detect harmful pathogens. The current commonly used method takes 24 hours to yield results, while the new method can take as little as three hours, thus presenting nearly real-time data. Results of this evaluation will be published and shared with beach communities in New Jersey and New York to determine their effectiveness and usefulness and to help further refine tests for use by local and state authorities.
NJ Coastal Biological Assessments Research Project: EPA will be using its vessel, the Clean Waters, in partnership with NJDEP and Rutgers University, to sample 100 stations from Sandy Hook to Cape May during the ecologically critical summer months of August and September. The samples will be analyzed for dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, water clarity (secchi depth measurements), benthic (ocean-bottom dwelling) macro-invertebrates and grain size, which will provide necessary information to develop better tools for identifying biological impairment in the coastal zone of New Jersey. These tools will allow for a more holistic, ecosystem approach to evaluating the near-shore environment and the effect of seasonal hypoxia on benthic communities. EPA is providing $350,000 in grant funding for this project.
Total Maximum Daily Loads: EPA will be collecting additional data throughout the entire New York Bight over a one to two-year period using new technologies and various oceanographic research vessels, including EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel BOLD. This additional data will be utilized to support the development of Total Maximum Daily Loadings (TMDLs) – a pollution budgeting plan for the water - and will include, but not be limited to, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, and general water quality parameters (temperature, depth, salinity, etc.). TMDLs are a long term tool for improving water quality that is being utilized in the core area of the New York/New Jersey harbor. A mathematical model will be used to assess current conditions and loadings of pollutants and to calculate what loading reductions are necessary to meet water quality standards. Past data has shown seasonal hypoxia and the waters along the NJ shore are listed on NJDEP 303(d) list. EPA will focus on developing TMDLs and an ecosystem approach to evaluating the near-shore environment, and the effect of seasonal hypoxia on benthic communities.
Remote Sensing: In 2005, EPA funded a remote sensing chlorophyll meter to be used on NJDEP’s fixed winged aircraft. The project was piloted in 2006 and will be used along the coast and in the back bays of New Jersey in 2007. This remote chlorophyll sensing will provide a real-time picture of the geographical extent of chlorophyll levels in the water.
Emergency Support: EPA will maintain and utilize its helicopter and various oceanographic research vessels (Biglane, Clean Waters, OSV BOLD) to respond and provide sampling support to local, state and federal partners.
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