Saturday, May 12, 2007

Help Hackensack RiverKeeper Fight Nonpoint Source Pollution

Goose poop bad. Litter worse.
Hackensack Riverkeeper cleanup,
Laurel Hill County Park, Secaucus, 2006

As we've been patrolling along the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook, Saddle River and Village ponds, it's been impossible to overlook the garbage polluting our local water resources. No matter how conscientious we may be about properly disposing of our own trash, we face a never-ending battle against nonpoint source pollution:

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water.

According to the EPA, states report that NPS pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. Goose poop is one form of NPS pollution, and we GeesePeace volunteers are doing something about that in our area. Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. is a local non-profit organization that, among other things, is dedicated to reducing and mitigating all forms of NPS pollution with a focus on the Hackensack River watershed, which essentially runs from the reservoirs of northeastern Bergen County down to Newark Bay.

Participate in a river cleanup

Last Spring, a few of my colleagues and I participated in a Hackensack Riverkeeper cleanup event at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus. The park is sandwiched between the two spurs of the NJ Turnpike, located just north of where the two spurs converge by the Pulaski Skyway. The Hackensack Riverkeeper himself, Capt. Bill Sheehan (far left in picture above), and Operations Director Lisa Ryan (far right in picture; scroll down at link to view her bio) took us out into the river on their pontoon boat, and dropped us off on a phragmites stand. Dressed in hip waders and armed with pickup sticks, we slogged through the muck and hauled out all sorts of stuff—from plastic water bottles to baseballs to hunks of styrofoam to an orange highway barrel.

While we were picking garbage in an area most think of as an industrial wasteland, we were treated to spectacular close-up views of a surprising variety of wetlands wildlife: cormorants sunbathing on piers to dry their waterlogged wings, herons wading along the shoreline, osprey circling overhead and diving into the river for fish, and several other species of waterfowl and shorebirds. It was a fun, rewarding and educational day that reminded us not only of the ravages of pollution, but also of the promise and potential of reclamation and conservation efforts spearheaded by dedicated individuals like Capt. Bill, Lisa and the entire Hackensack Riverkeeper team.

Next river cleanup is this Saturday

Hackensack Riverkeeper holds river cleanups up and down the Hackensack River watershed throughout the spring, summer and fall. Their next event is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, at Kenneth B. George Park, River Edge:

This cleanup is held in conjunction with the River Edge Environmental Commission and with the cooperation of the River Edge Fire Department. Several power boats will join our usual fleet of canoes in an effort to clear the river of debris. Supervised children are welcome; paddlers must be 14 or older and accompanied by an adult. Groups of 10 or more should contact Lisa at 201-968-0808. All equipment, breakfast and lunch will be provided. Please bring a bottle of water and dress appropriately for conditions.

Hackensack Riverkeeper offers lots of educational and recreational opportunities, too

Check out their Eco-Walks and Eco-Cruises, and their paddle center at Laurel Hill County Park where you can put in your own canoes or kayaks, or rent on site.

For more information about Hackensack Riverkeeper, visit And notice their link to this blog on their home page!