Hightstown stream cleanup keeps volunteers busy

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The stream cleanup featuring volunteers from The College of New Jersey.

By Mike Morsch, Regional Editor
Volunteers in Hightstown were all ready to do some cleaning up of the areas near Peddie Lake and Rocky Brook, part of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed that feeds into the Raritan River., But when they started to look around for trash to pick up, they found a surprise., “Some volunteers were disappointed that there wasn’t more trash — particularly larger articles — thinking that was the kind of trash that impacts water quality,” said David Zaiser, Shade Tree Official for the borough., But according to Zaiser, it’s not the larger items of trash that adversely affect waterways, it’s actually the smaller ones., “Typically, the smaller pieces — especially cigarette butts — are the ones that make their way more easily past the mechanical systems used in newer storm drains,” Zaiser said. “These smaller pieces of trash, which are the most difficult and tedious to pick up, are among the most insidious once they gain access to our waterways.”, Among the wildlife — particularly frogs and turtles — visible along the edges of Peddie Lake and Rocky Brook, more than two dozen volunteers took to that tedious task of picking up the smaller items of trash at the April 29 cleanup, part of the 11th annual Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s annual stream cleanup event throughout the area., “The water quality and overall health of our borough’s major waterways are particularly sensitive to trash left on the ground in areas immediately adjacent to waterways,” said Zaiser. “Rain events can wash trash into storm sewers and lead directly into the lake or streams, with immediate impact to the water quality., “It’s critical that all communities address the trash problem before it gains access to waterways. Local cleanups are among the best ways to make a significant, positive impact,” he said., The Hightstown cleanup volunteers ended up filling 29 bags of trash that weighed a combined 786 pounds., In 2016, more than 600 volunteers from 11 different area towns helped keep waterways safe by gathering and disposing of 5,565 pounds of trash, according to the Watershed Association. To date, stream cleanups have been effective in clearing 39 tons of trash and unwanted waste from local streams and rivers., “Cleaning up litter through volunteer efforts is important for many reasons. Besides the engagement of the general public in our work to protect water quality, removing trash from our natural environment prevents potential harm to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife,” said Brittany Musolino, river-friendly coordinator at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association., Litter is also a big contributor to polluted stormwater runoff and can end up clogging storm drains, according to Musolino. “People don’t realize when they throw trash in a particular area, it’s not going to stay there. It will end up in our waterways and even the ocean, where litter is a big problem.”, “We’re excited by the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers to improve the health of our local waterways during stream cleanups,” said Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. “Clean water is essential for people, wildlife, fish and aquatic life to flourish.”