New York, N.Y. -- With the beginning of the beach season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is beginning its 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. This year’s program will include helicopter surveillance for floating debris, water quality sampling and grants to support state beach protection programs. The summer monitoring program kicked off on Tuesday, May 21 with helicopter flights searching for floating debris in the New York/New Jersey Harbor.
“The EPA works diligently every summer to make sure beachgoers can enjoy the water without worry,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “With an expected increase in floating debris on our shores as a result of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, our efforts are even more important than ever.”
Working together with other federal, state and local agencies, the EPA’s cooperative 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 programs.
Highlights of the 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 York/New Jersey Harbor six days a week. The EPA conducts these flights to identify floating debris slicks and to coordinate cleanups with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the marine environment and prevent wash-ups on the beaches of New Jersey and New York. The EPA also reports any oil slicks to the U.S. Coast Guard for cleanup.
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, 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 to assess 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. This summer, an automated underwater vehicle will be used for the second year in a row to measure dissolved oxygen concentrations in New Jersey coastal waters. It is scheduled to be launched three times in mid-July, August and September, with each mission lasting 2-3 weeks. 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 $4 million dollars to date in EPA grants through the federal BEACH Act; New York State has received $4.8 million. New Jersey received an additional $274,000 this year and New York received an additional $341,000.
For information on the EPA’s Beach Advisory and Closing Online Notification (BEACON) database, which provides the public with state-reported beach monitoring and notification data, visit: http://watersgeo.epa.gov/beacon2/about.html.
For more information on the EPA’s diverse coastal water activities, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/water/oceans.