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Bayshore groups seek funds to test water quality

Staff Writer

KEYPORT — Members of the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council and NY/NJ Baykeeper are hoping to secure funding that will assist in the monitoring of local waters for harmful pathogens.

Recently, the NY/NJ Baykeeper applied for a grant from the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Safety Estuary Program in the hopes of obtaining a more complete picture of recreational water quality in the harbor.

“The Baykeeper actually was awarded funding from the same program in 2014 to do some monitoring in Matawan Creek and South River, so we have experience with the collection techniques,” said Meredith Comi, Oyster restoration program director at the NY/NJ Baykeeper.

“The grant this time is focused more on the Raritan Bay, which is great because we are interested in monitoring for pathogens,” Comi said. “It is something we have been interested in doing anyway along the Bayshore because there is a lot of people swimming, even on beaches that aren’t supposed to be swimming beaches, and aren’t monitored by Monmouth County Health.”

At a Jan. 14 meeting, Joe Reynolds, co-chairman of the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council, expressed the group’s interest in helping the NY/NJ Baykeeper however possible.

“At our meeting last month we had talked about grant projects and there was one grant project from the New Jersey Harbor & Safety Estuary which called for the monitoring of water quality around the bay,” he said. “The Baykeeper asked me if we wanted to partner with them on this grant project, and I thought it’d be great.”

Comi said 11 sites have been tentatively chosen from Perth Amboy down to the Highlands to monitor.

“It is a 16-week project so we would go out once a week to every one of those sites and collect the water samples and then run them at a lab, and it will be great to see how many pathogens are in the samples and see how the water quality is,” she said.

“The grant specifically says that we couldn’t monitor any sites that were already being monitored by Monmouth County Health, so that took a couple of the sites away that we wanted to look at, but we still have a great representation and really did get the whole coastline.”

Reynolds said sites include areas such as Cliffwood Beach, Keyport, Leonardo, Atlantic Highlands and Keansburg.

“I think the grant is for $10,000 and, if approved, we are going to help out monitoring/collecting water samples at sites,” he said.

“There are beaches in this area, and people do use the waters to go swimming and to have fun [and] hopefully if [the Baykeeper] gets the grant, we’ll soon have a better idea of how much waste is in the waters — especially during swimming times when people are active in the waters.”

Comi said the application for the grant was due Jan. 18, and decisions are expected to be made by February or early March.

“We feel it is really important, especially along the Bayshore,” she said. “People don’t even realize how many are utilizing the water whether it is a swimming beach or not.

“It would be a great building block if we were able to get the funds and start something and, while it is not a lot of money, but it would be conducted with a lot of volunteers, which is great.

“There is just a huge interest; everybody along the Bayshore, they really are interested in their waterways and they want to know how they can make it cleaner, so it would be a fantastic project.”

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