Partnering with Rutgers, Baykeeper and others in regional studies
We all know that discarded plastic bottles, cups, shopping bags, drinking straws, soda can rings and other items are harmful to the environment and marine ecosystems. That’s why thousands of New Jerseyans volunteer each year to clean up trash – much of it plastic – from river and stream banks and beaches.
But it’s not just the plastics you can see and pick up that are harmful. Microplastics – particles so small they’re nearly invisible – are emerging as a new contaminant of concern to marine wildlife and even human health.
But study also highlights problem areas that need improvement
How clean are the waters of the streams that flow through your town and neighborhood? Can you safely wade, swim, fish and paddle in them?
What about the underground aquifers that supply drinking water to 80 percent of local residents? Is it safe to drink the water coming from your well?
These are questions that Raritan Headwaters, a Bedminster-based nonprofit, has been investigating and reporting to the public for almost 60 years through its stream monitoring and well testing programs.
Raritan Headwaters (RHA), our local conservation organization is holding its annual member meeting from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Oldwick Firehouse. Interested members of the public are invited to learn about watershed protection and the health of their water supplies.
Raritan Headwaters’ Policy Director Bill Kibler will discuss how the election of Governor Phil Murphy will impact New Jersey’s environment, and staff members from the science and education departments will provide updates on their work. The evening will also include RHA’s annual Volunteers of the Year awards ceremony.
The cost is $40 per person, and includes drinks and a buffet dinner catered by The Food Architects. To register, go to www.raritanheadwaters.org or call 908-234-1852 x 320.
The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, as we started a new year at midnight on January 1st, finished up the legislative year very late on January 8th, and swore in a new governor at noon on January 16th. As we look forward to 2018, here are updates on some important issues.
We won an historic victory for clean water on January 8, when the New Jersey Legislature invalidated a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rule that would have allowed significantly more development on critically sensitive lands in the Highlands. RHA’s science-based advocacy played a key role in this campaign to protect clean water. Read about it here.
In late July 2017, Eastern Concrete Materials, Inc. discharged sludge from their quarry in Glen Gardner into the Spruce Run, destroying critical habitat and threatening the drinking water supply for 1.5 million people. The sludge impacted about 1.7 miles of the creek and traveled as far as the Spruce Run Reservoir. After several months, the clean-up effort (paid for by Eastern Concrete) wrapped-up in December. DEP is reportedly close to finalizing a settlement with Eastern Concrete which will include a fine for polluting Spruce Run, a supplemental environmental project to improve conditions in the creek, and a natural resources damages assessment. Read about it here.
Large ice floes on the South Branch of the Raritan River breached part of the Cole’s Mill Dam in Califon two weeks ago. RHA has reached out to the dam owner and is coordinating with DEP to address the possibility of removing the dam as part of a larger effort to restore the South Branch. Read about it here.
If you’re looking for signs of spring, here’s one: Registration opens Feb. 1 for Raritan Headwaters’ popular summer Nature Day Camps.
Raritan Headwaters, the region’s watershed watchdog, is offering nine one-week-long camps at the Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve for children ages three through 12. The camps will be held in July and August.
“We’re excited to once again offer summer day camps centered on nature and the outdoors,” said Lauren Theis, education director. “We want children to have fun in the fresh air while learning about plants, animals, habitats and the environment.”
Fairview Farm, a 170-acre former dairy farm located at 2121 Larger Cross Road in Gladstone, includes trails, forests, meadows, streams, gardens, a pond with a dock, historic barns, and indoor education rooms.
Registration is now open!
Want to help make streams in your community cleaner and healthier?
Join Raritan Headwaters, the region’s watershed watchdog, for its 28th annual Stream Cleanup on Saturday, April 14, at dozens of sites in Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris counties.
“We’re looking for volunteers of all ages to pitch in with the cleanup,” said Angela Gorczyca, water quality manager for Raritan Headwaters and coordinator of the massive cleanup effort. “Last year, more than 1,300 volunteers teamed up to remove over 13 tons of trash and litter from stream banks and waterways. We’re hoping for even more this year!”
Large ice floes on the South Branch of the Raritan River apparently took down part of the Cole’s Mill Dam in Califon this past weekend, affecting water levels in the mill pond upstream but not causing any damage downstream.
“Ice is a very powerful thing,” said Bill Kibler, a Califon resident and policy director for Raritan Headwaters. He said the ice toppled about 30 feet of the dam, which is constructed of granite and concrete.
Clean water in the Highlands won an enormous victory on Jan. 8, when the state Legislature invalidated a state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rule that would have allowed more development on ecologically sensitive lands.
What many people may not know is that science – specifically, Raritan Headwaters’ long-term analysis of groundwater quality trends – played a big role in the Legislature’s decision to overturn a rule that would have allowed more septic systems and, thus, more contamination of underground aquifers.
For more than 30 years, Raritan Headwaters has offered affordable well water testing to residents in the upper Raritan River watershed. These well tests detect common pollutants, including nitrates and coliform bacteria that can seep into groundwater from faulty septic systems.
A 10-acre property with nearly a half-mile of trout stream has been permanently preserved through a partnership between Lebanon Township and the Bedminster-based nonprofit Raritan Headwaters.
The partnership just purchased the former Dempsey family property at 97 Red Mill Road for $134,200. The land will be owned and managed by Lebanon Township for passive recreation, including fishing, hiking and nature observation.
“We’re happy to preserve this land as a public park, and grateful to partner with Raritan Headwaters,” said Deputy Mayor Mike Schmidt. “The property has about half a mile of frontage along the Spruce Run. It’s a trout-stocked stream, so it provides significant recreational benefits.”
The Peapack Brook is becoming better habitat for trout and other aquatic life, thanks to a tree planting project at the Rockabye Meadow Preserve – a cooperative effort between the borough Environmental Commission and local watershed watchdog Raritan Headwaters.
About 50 volunteers pitched in to plant 350 native New Jersey trees and shrubs over the course of three days in October. Raritan Headwaters and the Environmental Commission were joined by staff from the Peapack-Gladstone public works department, NJ Water Supply Authority, and local volunteers.
“Planting trees along our rivers and streams is one of the top ways we can have a direct impact in improving water quality,” said Dr. Kristi MacDonald, science director of Raritan Headwaters.