July 6, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Population and industrial growth have taken their toll on urban waterways, contributing to pollution problems in many of New Jersey’s cities. This year, the New Jersey Clean Communities Council (NJCCC) is targeting waterways in urban centers as part of the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, September 21, 2013. The NJCCC is currently compiling a list of the dirtiest river banks in New Jersey, and is asking for public input.
“We are targeting rivers because they are an important link in the chain of trash,” said Sandy Huber, executive director, NJCCC. “Much attention has deservedly gone to ocean beaches but we can’t forget the rivers, especially the ones with extensive debris.”
Do You Know a Dirty River Bank?
Goal is 3,000 volunteers
This year, NJCCC hopes to sign 3,000 volunteers for the International Coastal Cleanup. New Jersey area volunteers are asked to take part by joining a confirmed cleanup effort, or coordinating their own, and registering by the September 1 deadline. NJCCC will provide the official bags for trash and recyclables as well as gloves, data cards and other materials to registered volunteers.
The Planet’s Largest Volunteer Cleanup
The International Coastal Cleanup is the planet’s largest volunteer cleanup for waterway and ocean health. Hosted locally by New Jersey Clean Community Council, the Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup event has motivated 8.5 million people – including those from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut – in more than 100 countries to cross nearly 300,000 miles to collect more than 144 million pounds of trash from the world’s waterways since 1986. The focus of International Coastal Cleanup Day is as much on inland and urban waterways as it is on New Jersey’s shores, since a piece of trash dropped in Morristown, Trenton or elsewhere can end up in our ocean.
Urban Waterways Are in Distress
There are more than 200 rivers and streams in New Jersey1, many of which were aversely affected when Superstorm Sandy dumped raw and partially treated sewage throughout the state’s waterways.2 Waterways in urban areas face additional challenges, such as runoff of oil, rubber, heavy metals and other contaminants from automobiles. Urban waterways also may be affected by garbage dumps, toxic waste, chemical storage, and littering. This can leave them unfit to be used as drinking water or even recreationally for fishing, boating or swimming.
For example, the Delaware River that runs along New Jersey and New York is a drinking water source for approximately 15 million people,3 yet an environmental group claims it is the fifth most polluted river in the nation.4
The Industrial Revolution left its mark on the Hudson River with buildups of chemicals and other toxins. Since 1987, the Hudson River Estuary Program has been in place to renovate the estuary. The program helps to ensure clean water and protects and restores fish and wildlife habitats.5
The Passaic River is another casualty of the Industrial Revolution. A group of dedicated volunteers is successfully spearheading a cleanup and revitalization effort.6 Among their goals in the river cleanup are: (1) saving the food chain, (2) economic revitalization, (3) recreational opportunities, and (4) an ecosystem that will help control flooding.
Ocean Conservancy’s Snapshot of Ocean Trash
The annual International Coastal Cleanup is hosted nationally by Ocean Conservancy, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental nonprofit advocacy organization that promotes healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems. During each yearly event, volunteers record on standardized data cards the items they find. Ocean Conservancy compiles and analyzes the data and publishes the world’s only item-by-item, location-by-location snapshot of ocean trash. Readers can share their passion for cleaner waterways at facebook.com/oceanconservancy and twitter.com/OurOcean.
About the New Jersey Clean Communities Council Inc.
NJCCC was established in 1986 to help change the attitudes that cause littering. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation under contract to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to oversee grants disbursed to 559 towns and 21 counties for the implementation of litter abatement programs and to provide for a statewide program of public information and education. In 2011, it “adopted” the state’s Adopt-a-Beach program from the NJDEP. Its awards programs honor businesses, community organizations, schools and individuals for making New Jersey cleaner and greener. For more information, contact the NJCCC at 222 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608, 609-989-5900, www.njclean.org. The NJCCC’s statewide anti-litter campaign is making a difference throughout New Jersey.