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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
6/17/03

Contact: Peter Boger or
Elaine Makatura
609-984-1795

DEP OPENS NEW MARINE WATER QUALITY MONITORING CENTER
Ceremony Coincides with Opening of Additional Shellfish Beds for Harvesting

(03/86) TRENTON – Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today officially opened new offices and laboratories for the state's Marine Water Monitoring Program in Leeds Point, Atlantic County. The facilities will allow DEP to provide continuous marine water quality data to the public and to test shellfish routinely for contaminants.

"DEP's monitoring of New Jersey's shellfish growing waters not only protects the public from shellfish diseases, but also serves as an environmental yardstick by which we can measure the progress of pollution abatement programs," said Commissioner Campbell. "These new facilities will ensure that New Jersey remains a worldwide leader in the shellfish industry and in protecting its fragile coastal resources."

This facility will be part of DEP's network of 2,500 monitors that routinely samples marine waters ensuring that shellfish are harvested from clean waters. The new laboratory is outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment including an atomic absorption spectrophotometer to test shellfish for metals, including mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium and nickel.

New Jersey's shellfish industry is a critical part of the coastal economy with a dockside value of $79 million per year.

In addition to shellfish testing, the facility also will compile continuous, real-time water quality data, using new monitoring equipment. Solar-powered sensors located in four coastal buoys will gather data on water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity and chlorophyll. The data will soon be available in real time on the DEP web site at http://www.nj.gov/dep.

"Now that we are able to better monitor our coastal waters, we will be better prepared to investigate persistent problems such as harmful algae blooms and sudden drops in dissolved oxygen, both of which can damage New Jersey's aquatic ecosystem," Campbell said.

The new, larger facilities also provide space for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) equipment that will improve the state's response to contaminant spills, helping DEP track the spills and determine what areas need to be closed.

The US Environmental Protection Agency provided a $300,000 grant to support the purchase of state of the art equipment to upgrade the facility.

The dedication of the Leeds Point facility coincides with the opening of additional harvesting waters, a benefit of New Jersey's continued commitment to improved marine water quality.

On Monday, June 16, the reclassification and upgrade of 3,889 acres of shellfish waters took effect, marking the 15th consecutive year that New Jersey has upgraded more beds for harvest than it downgraded. With this latest reclassification, 90 percent of New Jersey's shellfish beds are now open for harvest.

The newly opened beds include 3,695 acres in the Atlantic Ocean off Monmouth County. DEP previously allowed shellfishing on the remaining 194 acres but has now upgraded the waters, lengthening the harvesting season. These areas include Manahawkin Bay (133 acres), Tuckerton Cove (45 acres) and Strathmere (16 acres).

 

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