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EPA Begins Summer Monitoring to Protect Area Beaches, Coastal Waters and New York/New Jersey Harbor

Release Date: 06/01/2011
Contact Information: John Senn, (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) With the beginning of the beach season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is again undertaking a beach and harbor protection program to safeguard beaches and bays in New Jersey and New York and protect the health of the people who enjoy them. EPA’s program includes helicopter surveillance for floating debris, water quality sampling and grants to support state beach protection programs. The summer monitoring program kicked off on Saturday, May 28 with helicopter flights searching for floating debris in the New York/New Jersey Harbor.

“EPA is on the job every summer sampling water quality to make sure that beachgoers can enjoy the water without worry,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Our efforts also ensure that floating debris is found and removed from the water before it can make its way onto a beach where it could affect people’s health and damage wildlife.”

Working together with other federal, state and local agencies, EPA’s program operates seven days a week. This comprehensive, science-based beach and coastal water program has many components, including shellfish bed water quality monitoring, and grants to states to help with their beach monitoring and public notification programs. As they do every summer, EPA scientists will fly over the New York/New Jersey Harbor in a helicopter, the Coastal Crusader, searching for floating debris. The helicopter will also be used to collect water samples near shellfish beds and along the New Jersey coast for phytoplankton analysis, and take samples for bacteriological analysis around Long Island to support New Jersey’s and New York’s shellfish protection program.

Highlights of EPA’s Coastal Water and Beach Program

Floatables Surveillance Overflights:
From late May to early September, the Coastal Crusader helicopter will fly over the New Jersey/New York Harbor Complex six days a week. EPA conducts these flights to identify floating debris slicks and to coordinate cleanups with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission to prevent wash-ups on the beaches of New Jersey and New York. EPA also reports any oil slicks to the U.S. Coast Guard for cleanup. A skimmer vessel will help respond to slicks in the Newark Bay.

Shellfish Bed Monitoring Program:
The EPA helicopter will be used to collect water quality samples to assist the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with monitoring the health of their shellfish beds. To support this program, phytoplankton samples will be collected six times this summer along the New Jersey coast in Raritan Bay, Sandy Hook Bay, Barnegat Bay, Great Bay and Delaware Bay. Samples will also be collected for fecal contamination at 26 stations six times this summer along the Long Island coast, from Rockaway to Shinnecock Inlet.

Dissolved Oxygen Monitoring:
New Jersey coastal waters are listed as impaired due to low dissolved oxygen concentrations, which can have a very damaging effect on fish and shellfish. Sampling for dissolved oxygen is complicated as levels vary over time and across a large area, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and EPA have been exploring better methods for monitoring dissolved oxygen. The sampling to determine dissolved oxygen levels in coastal waters that was formerly conducted using EPA’s helicopter during past summers will be done this summer using an automated underwater vehicle, which is scheduled to be launched in mid-July. The vehicle, commonly known as a glider, has the advantage of collecting many more measurements over a larger area. Data collected by the glider will be used to create a three-dimensional picture of dissolved oxygen in New Jersey’s coastal ocean.

Beach Monitoring and Notification Program:
The state of New Jersey and local health departments have received over $3.4 million dollars to date in EPA grants through the federal BEACH Act; New York State has received $4.1 million. New Jersey will receive an additional $310,000 this year and New York will get an additional $382,000.

For more information on EPA’s diverse coastal water activities, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/water/oceans.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

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