By Lauren Wanko
Heavy rainfall didn’t deter Lacey Township students from picking up trash near their high school. Forty-five freshmen joined forces with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, for the Barnegat Bay Blitz.
Thousands of volunteers worked on trash and debris cleanups throughout Ocean and Monmouth Counties. The event is part of the governor’s 10-point restoration plan for the Bay.
“There are two major contributors to the pollution in Barnegat Bay that we know of for sure. One is all the nutrients that go into Barnegat Bay — those come from people’s lawns, from what comes off the road, from farms that wash into Barnegat Bay. The other major component is trash that’s in and around Barnegat Bay. One of the things we need to make sure is we’re preserving all the land around Barnegat Bay and keeping it clean because that land is the filter for the water that goes into Barnegat Bay. So keeping that land clean, picking all that trash up is extremely important,” says DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
Volunteers picked up trash across the 660-square mile watershed that encompasses 37 municipalities. Students found latex gloves, shards of glass, bottles and cans.
“The situation here really is dire. The Barnegat Bay is dying. And that’s an inconvenient truth that we have to live with. Now, we can either ignore it and keep going ho hum with our daily lives and pollute further, or we can make a difference and take action,” says Lacey Township High School student Gavin Rozzi.
Nearly 5,000 volunteers signed up to participate, but the rain forced some groups to reschedule their cleanups for the coming weeks. Commissioner Martin says the rain was a welcome addition given the dry conditions the state has been experiencing since this past winter. “We had no snowpack this year, we had a very dry winter …. we’re way behind, if you will, from water, from precipitation in the state. Our reservoirs are fine right now, that’s good, but stream flow has gone down. We’re worried about the season when the summer starts to come and it starts to dry out even further,” says Commissioner Martin.
The Barnegat Bay Blitz first kicked off this past October. Volunteers collected 1200 bags of trash.