By John BurtonSHREWSBURY – The state Department of Environmental Protection is calling on area mayors and community groups to help stem the tide of contaminates in the Navesink River.With recent studies conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that indicate higher levels of contamination from bacterial matter, state environmental officials believe local government and community groups can play an important role in informing the public and curtailing the problem.“Water quality’s degrading on the upper portions of the Navesink,” warned Bob Schuster, chief of the DEP’s Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring, with researchers finding elevated levels of fecal coliform contamination. Based upon analysis of the data collected in the DEP studies, state officials have suspended any shellfish harvesting from 565.7 acres of the river area, downgrading it from restricted to prohibited in 2015, according to Schuster.Schuster, who was joined by DEP Assistant Commissioner Daniel M. Kennedy, made these observations to the Two River Council of Mayors which conducted a special summer meeting on Thursday Aug. 4, attended by environmental groups and others.DEP studies revealed higher levels of fecal coliform (CFU) in certain areas of the river, such as in Red Bank’s Oyster Point, and off of Maple and Chapin avenues. Researchers found high levels of domestic animal and wildlife signature as well as human signature contamination. In Middletown, in the area of Marion Lake and McClees Creek, there were higher levels of domestic and wildlife signature discharge.Along with that, Schuster explained after a rain event, the bacteria level readings were usually considerably higher.Around McClees Creek, Monmouth County inspectors looked at the site and found horse stall muckings and horse manure dumped on the water’s edge; those inspectors, Schuster said, found a horse farm in the immediate area, with state and county inspectors telling the farm owners they had to clean up the area and dispose of the animal waste in an approved manner.With the situation, Schuster advised the mayors and others “There are things that can be done.”Anthony V. CosentinoThe DEP will continue to monitor the situation and search for the source point pollution and are willing to work with local government, environmental and community groups. “We’re here to help going forward,” Schuster said.On the local level, state officials said, officials could help get the word out to the public about the situation. It would be helpful to stress to the public about cleaning up after dogs and other pets, and to be conscious of other sources of pollution that can easily make its way into storm drains and eventually water ways, Schuster pointed out.“There are things that can be done from a land use, planning perspective,” Kennedy added, with local government reviewing its requirements for impervious surfaces and storm water management for land development projects coming before local planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment.“There’s no one size fits all solution here, no magic bullet,” Kennedy acknowledged, but adding there are incremental steps that will improve the situation.“The main thing is no blame game here,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of the environmental group Clean Ocean Action, stressing that pointing fingers at possible culprits is not the answer. “Just find it and fix it.”Fair Haven Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli said the recently reformed Navesink River Municipalities Committee will play and an important role in educating the public.“I think a lot of this is common sense stuff. I think a lot of this is awareness,” said committee chairman Brian Rice, agreeing his committee will cooperate on education. “I think we can do a lot.”“The bottom line is,” Lucarelli pointed out, “if we get the source” and correct it, “the river can clean itself.”“There shouldn’t be a panic,” concerning using the water way for recreation, including fishing, Schuster stressed. And now the plan is to work with the local groups, he added.The Two River Council of Mayors will take up the issue at its regular September meeting and formulate a plan for moving forward, said Shrewsbury Mayor Donald Burden, who chairs the council.The Two River Council of Mayors is an informal group of elected officials representing 12 communities who meet monthly much of the year to discuss issues relevant to the region.
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