Goal of restoring Navesink River by 2020 may not happen

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While restoring the Navesink River by 2020 may not be feasible, progress continues to be made toward the restoration of the contaminated waterway.

On Jan. 31, Clean Ocean Action facilitated a “Rally For the Navesink” meeting at Bingham Hall in Rumson.

The Navesink River is an estuary that is about eight miles long and is surrounded by Middletown, Red Bank, Fair Haven and Rumson.

According to a report issued by Clean Ocean Action in 2016, more than 565 acres of the river have been downgraded for shellfishing due to pathogen pollutants that were discovered in 2016.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) considers shellfish water classification to be a crucial component when determining the overall health of a waterway, according to the report.

The Navesink River’s water quality has been declining over the past 30 years, according to Clean Ocean Action. Measures are being taken to help remedy the situation and to help ensure cleaner water for residents and users of the river for fishing and recreation.

On Jan. 31, Bill Heddendorf and Scott Chernoff, environmental specialists at the DEP’s Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring, were asked by members of the public if the river would be fully restored by the target date of 2020.

They did not directly respond the first time the question was asked. After the second time, Chernoff said, “2020 is in a year … The data we have been getting from samples has been incredibly useful and I want to thank everyone who has been working on this.”

Data collected from investigations conducted by human waste sniffing dogs from Environmental Canine Services was presented before questions were taken.

The dogs detect and determine where human fecal matter is present and can determine the source of the bacteria, officials said. The most recent investigation was conducted on Nov. 28.

Investigations were conducted at locations in Middletown, Red Bank, Rumson and Fair Haven, and not just in the river. Heddendorf said human fecal contamination was detected in areas of each town.

The point the presenters made was that contamination that is found away from the river can be carried to the river in water runoff.

Specifically, Heddendorf said human fecal matter was discovered near a cul-de-sac in Rumson. He said a “huge signature,” which is human feces, was detected in another part of town, but did not specify in which area of Rumson the human waste was detected.

Heddendorf said human signatures were also found near McClees Creek in Middletown.

The most significant source of human fecal matter was detected near a garbage bin at a nursing facility in Red Bank.

“That is definitely a concern. We are talking to Red Bank and they are taking care of it.” Heddendorf said.