LONG BRANCH, NJ - Last week at the Virtual Rally for the Navesink public meeting, Clean Ocean Action (COA) announced that the initiative to improve water quality in the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers, formally known as “Rally for the Navesink”, has been officially renamed “Rally for the Two Rivers.”
“As interconnected water bodies, the water quality of the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers are inextricably linked and suffer from similar impairments. A watershed-wide approach is needed to effectively address the issues in both rivers. As the Rally for the Two Rivers, we will seek opportunities for pollution reduction by engaging new partners throughout the Shrewsbury River watershed, while leveraging our ongoing successful collaborations in the Navesink watershed. Despite the name change, the goal of the Rally remains the same: to make the rivers healthy for fish, shellfish, and families,” said COA’s Watershed Program Coordinator, Alison Jones.
When the initiative first began in 2016, the Navesink River was the primary focus of source trackdown efforts due to the severity of the pathogen pollution issue, which resulted in the downgrade of 565 acres of shellfishing habitat. While source trackdown efforts are still ongoing to identify the few remaining sources of pathogen pollution in the watershed, pathogen levels in the river have decreased significantly, thanks to five years of coordinated effort from the Rally for the Navesink and collaboration with the NJDEP. Unfortunately, other water quality impairments have become cause for concern, as evidenced by increases in the number and severity of fish kills and algal blooms. The Shrewsbury River suffers from these same impairments, including pathogen pollution.
“Healthy rivers are integral to our wellbeing and link communities. COA’s Rally for the Two Rivers strives to do just that with proven, collaborative approaches to science, and education,” stated COA’s Staff Scientist Dr. Swarna Muthukrishnan, PhD.
The volunteer Oceanport Water Watch Committee has been diligently monitoring water quality in the Shrewsbury River for many years, providing COA with a thorough understanding of the current water quality conditions in the river. This baseline knowledge is critical to identifying and addressing problem areas. Moving forward, the Rally for the Two Rivers will focus on preventative actions to maintain the water quality improvements achieved in recent years, while continuously working to find and fix sources of pollution in both the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers.
“Oceanport Water Watch Committee is a group of citizen science volunteers that has been in existence for 30 years, for which I have been involved with for 13 years. Once a month we sample 9-10 sites around the shores of Oceanport in the Shrewsbury River, and occasionally a bit upstream. There is usually low fecal content in the main part of the Shrewsbury River. However, there are exceptions upstream at Turtle Mill Brook. That area sometimes produces high levels of bacteria, especially after heavy rains that you can see diluting as the water flows downstream. Originally the goal was to get Monmouth Park Racetrack to clean up their act which turned out to be a success. The work continues not only to keep an eye on the park but also to monitor the recent reuse of the Fort Monmouth sewerage system. The initiative is strictly a volunteer effort,” shared Tom Cox of the Oceanport Water Watch Committee.
PHOTO: IDEXX Water Quality Testing is performed weekly in COA’s lab by Dr. Swarna Muthukrishnan, PhD
In November 2020, COA began IDEXX Enterolert bacteria monitoring of select locations in the Two Rivers Watershed thanks to the IDEXX equipment loan grant from U.S.EPA Region II Citizen Science Program. Sixteen locations of potential bacteria pollution issues have been selected for the IDEXX study, based on an evaluation of bacteria monitoring data collected by Oceanport Water Watch Committee, COA and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the Shrewsbury and Navesink Rivers. All selected sites are sampled twice a month with a minimum of five sampling events over the course of the study. The IDEXX study for the Two Rivers Watershed will help collect valuable data on ambient bacteria in these waterways.
PHOTO: At the meeting, Alison Jones discussed another water quality concern that goes beyond pathogens – road salt. Pictured here is a sample collected from a road salt study COA is currently working on with NJ Watershed Watch Network.
To learn more about the Rally for the Two Rivers program and stay informed, visit the Facebook page.