ATLANTIC CITY — Frustrated by a lack of response to what they consider an “emergency situation,” a group of volunteers has organized a cleanup for Gardner’s Basin next week., a group of environmentally conscious young people founded by brothers A.J. and Dorian Elmore, 17 and 21, both of Egg Harbor City, will lead a garbage collection and waterway cleanup at the mouth of the Baltic Avenue Canal in Gardner’s Basin on Aug. 23. The brothers, along with other like-minded volunteers, recently completed two other garbage collections in the Atlantic City area — near the Humane Society on Route 30 and the Marina District beach near Harrah’s Resort.

On Tuesday, while standing next to the canal — which had visible trash sitting on the pipe’s edge waiting to be forced into the water below after the next rainfall — the Elmore brothers said there is no more time to wait for government to correct the problem.

“Those birds, those crabs, those fish don’t have time for the government to take care of it,” AJ Elmore said. “Nature doesn’t have time for waiting and paperwork. It needs to be done now.”

The brothers and their small army of volunteers are targeting Gardner’s Basin because of the massive amounts of trash that started to collect after the city turned on the canal last year. The 100-year-old Baltic Avenue Canal, which flushes stormwater from 775 acres of urban streets directly into the body of water beyond Fisherman’s Park, is an underground flood-mitigation system.

Residents and business owners along Gardner’s Basin have brought their concerns to city officials. So far, nothing has been done and they have resorted to using fishing nets to collect trash themselves.

First Ward Councilman Aaron “Sporty” Randolph, who represents Gardner’s Basin on the city’s governing body, previously told The Press of Atlantic City that he would look into the situation. On Tuesday, Randolph did not respond to a request for an update.

Absent a response from officials about what the plan is to stop the pollution from going directly into Gardner’s Basin, and eventually the ocean, Shore2Pickup is doing it themselves.

“It’s the only way to do it,” Elmore said.

Frank Becktel, a resident who lives in a waterfront home once owned by his grandparents, said he filed a complaint recently with the state Department of Environmental Protection. A spokesperson for the DEP confirmed the agency had received a single complaint regarding trash in Gardner’s Basin.

“We knew this was coming,” Becktel said. “As soon as they opened that floodgate, we knew, because we live on an island, we knew that anything that goes into a storm drain has got to come out somewhere. And it comes out in Gardner’s Basin.”

However, the stormwater system is not violating any state or local regulations, according to the DEP.

Atlantic City has its own littering ordinance and is responsible for enforcement.

Secondly, drain inlets must be designed to reduce the amount of trash and debris that can pass through them, but many of the inlets in the city were constructed prior to this requirement and have larger openings. The DEP requires the inlets be retrofitted to a smaller opening whenever a street is repaved. The city says about 45% of its inlets have been retrofitted.

Lastly, the state requires monthly street sweeping for city-owned roads that have curbs or storm drain inlets, a speed limit of 35 mph or less, and are located in a predominantly commercial area. In 2017, the city removed 3,707 cubic yards of material via street sweeping, according to the DEP.

Until something changes, the Elmore brothers, and whoever can help them, will continue to clean up the trash in Gardner’s Basin.

“It’s never going to be fixed (like this),” Elmore said. “This is not a solution. But we’re just going to keep coming back until something is done.”

Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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