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Samples from Barnegat Bay Will Help in Restoration Efforts

Release Date: 08/15/2001
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(#01096) New York, New York -- In support of ongoing efforts to restore and protect Barnegat Bay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking samples of sediment and water to gain valuable information about the health of the bay during the hot summer months when it is most vulnerable to pollution. The samples, along with previous studies, will foster a better understanding of the sources of pollution and the long-term effects that increased human activities have on the bay. EPA Acting Regional Administrator William J. Muszynski visited Barnegat Bay today to observe samples being taken and to stress the need to understand more about the threats to the Barnegat Bay Estuary.

"This bay is one of New Jersey's greatest resources and this sampling will bring us closer to identifying the steps necessary to restore and protect it from threats in the future," said Mr. Muszynksi. "It produces just the right environment for crabs, fish, birds and other wildlife and it offers recreational opportunities, for fishing, clamming, boating, swimming and bird watching. Unfortunately, one of the characteristics that makes this bay so valuable B its shallow depth B also makes it more vulnerable to pollution."

"Through the Barnegat Bay Estuary Program, we=re able to pool federal, state and local resources and work in partnership to identify problems and develop solutions that will help restore this significant eco-system," said New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn. "Barnegat Bay is at a crossroads, and with initiatives like this, we hope to keep these water thriving and productive as a natural resource and as a recreational resource as well. "

Fish spawn, birds nest and many animals feed on Barnegat Bay's abundant food supply. It is home to plants and animals, from blue claw crabs to eelgrass, killifish to pitch pines, ospreys and herons. Marshes, cedar swamps and other vegetation in the estuary protect marine life and water quality by filtering sediments and pollution. These marshes also provide a great service to the human population by acting as a barrier against damaging floods and storm waves and giving people a great place to play.

The samples, which have and are being taken by EPA scientists throughout the months of July and August, will be analyzed for biological and chemical contaminants such as fecal coliform, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, metals and nutrients. Sediment samples will also be collected to determine the biological community of the bay and to test for toxicity. In all, about 80 sampling locations will be monitored. Results from sampling will be released after all analyses are completed, likely in late 2002.

Located in Ocean County, New Jersey, Barnegat Bay is a lagoon-type estuary, characteristic of the back bay system of a barrier island coastline. The Barnegat Bay estuarine system, which covers over 42 miles of shoreline from the Point Pleasant Canal to Little Egg Harbor Inlet, is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 6 feet. The Barnegat Bay watershed drains from a land area of approximately 660 square miles.

More than 500,000 people live within the Barnegat Bay watershed. That population doubles in the summer as people flock to the shore. The continued economic health of the Barnegat Bay watershed is dependent on the continued health and natural beauty of its waters. The estuary is not only a vital component of New Jersey's tourist industry, but is an important natural resource that supports populations of commercially and recreationally significant fish and rare and endangered species.

Nonpoint source pollution, while diffuse, is cumulatively the most important cause of adverse impacts on water quality and the health of living resources in the Bay. Pollutants washed into the water by rain and snow melt, as well as ground water, contribute to nonpoint source pollution.

At the request of EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, then Governor of New Jersey, and with the support of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Barnegat Bay Estuary was recognized as an estuary of national significance threatened by pollution, development and overuse and was accepted into EPA's National Estuary Program in July 1995. The Barnegat Bay Estuary Program is finalizing a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, which, when finalized, will address these and other threats to the bay.