Barnegat Bay Blitz Follows up Local Sandy Cleanups

By KIRK MOORE | May 14, 2013

The Barnegat Bay Blitz cleanup in N.J., followed many local volunteer efforts during the last six months to collect debris from Superstorm Sandy, but the crews and students out still had plenty of work at hand.

“We’re finding a lot of trash, obviously from homes. We picked all that up, put it on the barge and dragged it in here,” Irene Kropp told the Asbury Park Press of Neptune. She’s an assistant commissioner with the state Department of Environmental Protection, which organized its fourth watershed cleanup since 2011.

Kropp joined rank-and-file DEP workers on boats Friday scouring the bayshore at Island Beach State Park.

“We’re also talking to people about how it’s important to take personal action,” she said.

Much of the heavy lifting has already been done, by thousands of local volunteers who labored on post-Sandy cleanups through the winter and into this spring.

“We had students working from November on,” said John Wnek, supervisor with the of the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School’s Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, which had a team of students working Friday on Long Beach Island.

At a previous cleanup at High Bar Harbor, near the island’s north end, “most of the heavy stuff was gone” in recent weeks, Wnek said. “But what was alarming was the amount of plastic.”

DEP officials said some 11,300 volunteers have joined the twice-annual Barnegat Bay Blitz since the first event was held in 2011. There’s no official tally of the volunteerism for local cleanups after Sandy, but that grassroots effort has been immense, and ongoing.

“Right now, we’re in phase two of the long-term recovery, which is the rebuilding of New Jersey,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said at a morning meeting with hundreds of students and volunteers at the Surf City municipal boat ramp.

Debris cleanup is continuing in Barnegat Bay, with the recent removal of three wrecked houses in the northern bay, and sand dredging will commence by next week, Martin said. Contractors will continue working in the bay into summer, he said.

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