Friday, October 31, 2014

Thousands Clean Up NJ Beaches

Waves of thanks to the 3,000 volunteers that hit the beaches to participate in Clean Ocean Action's 29th Annual Fall Beach Sweeps this past Saturday, October 25th. Volunteers at 72 locations from Essex County to Cape May County removed and cataloged each piece of debris, helping to document ongoing pollution issues.
The data recorded from the clean-up will be combined with data collected from the spring at the April 26th Beach Sweeps, then analyzed and presented in an annual report produced by Clean Ocean Action. The Beach Sweeps annual report identifies pollution problems and educates citizens on the quantities and types of marine debris. It is amazing what is found washed up or left on the beaches!

On Sandy Hook alone, Beach Sweep volunteers picked up: 268 plastic forks, spoons and knives; 2651 plastic caps and lids; 760 cigarette filters; 4137 plastic pieces; 277 plastic shopping bags; 52 pens; 2099 plastic straws; 27 syringes; and 304 tampon applicators. The rainstorm in the days prior to the clean-up helped to create large amounts of debris.

In addition to logging standard debris counts for various plastics, glass and lumber items, Sweeps volunteers also recorded the strange objects that make their way to the beach from various nonpoint sources. Some of the ridiculous items cataloged included: fireworks; a piece of car door; an 8' by 4' piece of fiberglass from a boat; a rusty anchor; a trunk of metal tiles; a bike handle; a bag of mice; chicken bones; a Lego castle; men's underwear; a bikini; and pom-poms.
The Beach Sweeps help to remind all beach goers and volunteers the importance of disposing of trash properly and runoff as almost all waterways, including rivers and streams, lead to the bay and ocean. Therefore, it is important to stop the pollution at the source and reduce the amount of debris that is picked up at the Beach Sweeps.

We look forward to next year at the 30th Annual Beach Sweeps! Stay tuned for more exciting events, official dates, and clean-up opportunities for the 30th Anniversary of the cleanup.

With gratitude, Clean Ocean Action thanks Aveda, Bank of America, ShopRite and Kohl’s for their 2014 Beach Sweeps Statewide Sponsorship. The Fall Beach Sweeps are made possible by support from many generous sponsors.

Friday, October 24, 2014

ANJEC Conference

Environmental Commissioners Meet, Greet, and Learn at Annual Congress

On Friday, October 24th, Jennifer Coffey the new Executive Director of the Association of Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) welcomed a room full of volunteer commissions, and environmental groups to the 41st Environmental Congress.   For 45 years the non-profit, ANJEC, has been dedicated to promoting and protecting New Jersey’s environmental resources by supporting the local commissions. These municipally appointed volunteers help their towns protect local natural resources, educate the public, and promote sustainability.

Most appropriately, former Governor Tom Kean presented the key note address, after he drafted and signed the law establishing ANJEC.  He focused on the Keep it Green NJ campaign, aimed at dedicating funds to open space preservation in New Jersey.  Governor Kean thanked the commissioners said they were following in a proud tradition of people who have made their communities better every day.

Judith Enck, USEPA Regional Administrator of Region 2, spoke about the federal plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  She said, "Every level of government needs to work on climate change. Climate change is not coming, it’s here.  The time to act was yesterday. "

During the conference, several workshops were available for the Environmental Commission members, including water supply, resilience, climate change, and open space preservation. In addition, hands-on skill workshops in technologies such as Google Earth and advancing social media techniques were also provided.  Clean Ocean Action, provided materials especially on the Blue Star program.

Do you know if your town has an Environmental Commission? Do they know about COA’s Blue Star program?  Check ANJEC’s website to find out, and see how you can get more involved:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Plastics Make a Big Difference No Matter How Small

COA's Staff Takes on Microplastics

This summer, COA launched a new research endeavor looking into  “microplastics” – tiny pieces of plastic – in New Jersey beach sand and coastal waters.  This study was initiated in response to two observations: 1) plastic pieces are consistently one of the most-recorded items during COA’s bi-annual Beach Sweeps, so we had evidence that large quantities of plastic were breaking down and remaining in the New Jersey coastal environment; and 2) we knew that consumer products commonly washed down household drains, such as facial scrubs and toothpastes, contain microplastics as ingredients (also known as ‘microbeads’).  Shortly after beginning this study, COA was invited to participate in the “Trash Free Waters” working group formed by the Region 2 office of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which seeks to advance partnerships between non-profits, government, and academia in reducing debris in our waterways.

COA got started on this project by reviewing scientific literature on microplastics sampling procedures and getting feedback from researchers in the field.  COA then produced a volunteer manual, data sheets, and a video tutorial for volunteers to use during sample collection.  Sand and water samples have now been collected from 32 sites spanning the length of the Jersey Shore, thanks to the dedicated efforts of students from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) high school and several Beach Captains.  COA is now involved in the sample “processing” phase, which involves extracting the microplastics from the sand and water samples in a laboratory setting.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lab on Sandy Hook has graciously loaned space, equipment and expertise for the processing steps, with which the MAST students are assisting.  The last phase of the project will be identifying the microplastics under a microscope, which COA hopes to start with the MAST students by the end of the year.  We are excited to reveal the results of our first year of research in time for the 30th anniversary of Beach Sweeps next spring!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Obama Administration Currently Planning for Future Expansion of Offshore Oil & Gas Drilling

                Right now, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is formulating a new plan for offshore oil and gas drilling. This federal plan will be in effect from 2017 to 2022, and will determine which areas will be made available for oil drilling off US coasts. The current 2012-2017 plan restricts drilling to parts of Alaska and the waters of the western Gulf of Mexico. BOEM is now proposing to add the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts to the new five year plan, as well as the eastern Gulf and additional areas off Alaska. The oil industry views this proposal as a way to increase business, and therefore industry representatives and lobbyists have submitted thousands of comments to BOEM in support of expanding the areas open to oil drilling. Their efforts are further encouraged by the Obama Administration’s decision to conduct a seismic survey in the Atlantic. Results from this survey, which will inevitably harm and possibly kill countless marine mammals and invertebrates, could pinpoint natural gas and oil deposits along the continental shelf, thus inviting drilling to take place. The period to submit comments to BOEM on the proposed 2017-2022 plan closed on August 15. Unfortunately, it appears that more comments were submitted in support of the proposed plan than against it.
                Opening up oil drilling to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts not only steers the focus of the nation away from developing more sustainable energy practices, but also comes with the risk of catastrophic damage to coastal, marine, and human environments. The daily operations of offshore rigs results in the dumping of toxic metals and carcinogens into the ocean. Produced water, which is often contaminated with oil, is also discharged from rigs daily.
Perhaps the largest environmental concern in regard to offshore drilling is oil spills. Oil spills contaminate sediment, smother and kill wildlife, and the pollution remains in the ecosystem for years afterwards. In 2007, a study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) found that over 25,000 gallons of oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was still caught in Alaskan sand. We have not yet developed effective oil spill response methods, made ever more evident by the events following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill which poured oil into the ocean for 87 days. A spill such as this has negative effects on coastal economies as well. During the spill, NOAA declared 19% of the entire Gulf a no fishing zone, greatly affecting the seafood and recreational industries. Tourism during this period also dropped at drastic rates. Recently, a U.S. District Judge ruled that BP acted with gross negligence leading to the spill. Studies continue to be released that document long term negative impacts to marine life and the health of people exposed to the spill and its aftermath.
                The Atlantic coast has been under a drilling moratorium for decades and changing that now, when the need for sustainable energy sources is at its highest and the marine environment is in its most vulnerable state yet, does not make sense.

News articles about the harmful effects of the BP Gulf oil spill: