LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — Two street sweepers bought with a state Department of Environmental Protection grant are working to protect Barnegat Bay.
“Everytime we have a high tide or big rain whatever we have on the street goes into the bay,” Township Mayor Joseph Mancini said. “This is going to make a big difference. Instead of it going down the storm sewers we’re cleaning it up.”
Mancini said the township will share the street sweepers with neighboring Beach Haven as part of a shared services agreement. One worked on side streets in the Beach Haven Park section of the township on Wednesday afternoon.
The DEP gave the township $250,000 under the DEP’s Barnegat Bay Initiative Program to buy two diesel-powered regenerative air sweepers mounted on diesel-powered truck chasiss, DEP spokesman Bob Considine said.
Much of the bay’s deterriorating health is caused by runoff, and the purchase of the street sweepers fits with Action Item No. 2 in Gov. Chris Christie’s 10-Point Plan. Action Item No. 2 calls for funding stormwater-mitigation projects to protect Barnegat Bay.
As part of the program, $20.3 million in grants and loans is available to towns to purchase pollution-reducing equipment, including street sweepers. The plan also allows for the retrofitting of stormwater basins to combat pollutant runoff from streets and lawns.
But while towns do their best to purchase equipment and update stormwater management systems scientists have determined that Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor is an estuary in ecological decline.
Researchers from the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey evaluted the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary and Watershed condition over two decades in a report relesed Wednesday.
After years of nitrogen and phosphorus enrichment, the Barnegat Bay estuary has experienced damaging algal blooms, low dissolved oxygen concentrations, serious epiphytic loading, diminishing hard clam abundance, disappearance of habitat and additional negative effects, according to a report released Wednesday.
Research professor Mike Kennish of the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences said that the new study “paints a rather bleak picture of the ecological health of the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary”.
In response to the report, Kennish said the bay can further be protected through holistic management with the influx of harmful nutrients being controlled by updating stormwater control systems, limiting fertilizer runoff from lawns, preserving open space and continuing public education.
Point Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant Borough, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and Lavallette, received funding and purchased street sweepers.
Ocean County also applied to DEP and received funding for two regenerative air street sweepers, one dustless regenerative sweeper and a jet/vac truck, he said.
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