Understanding water quality

Overall. the Delaware Bay fares better than most estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay to the southwest and the Barnegat Bay to the northeast

Water quality monitoring measures potential contaminants that fall into three categories: chemical and nutrient. and bacterial. A overly simplistic way to think of it is that chemical contaminants come from factories, nutrient contaminants come from farms and bacterial contamination comes from untreated sewage.

Chemical

Here in the Delaware Bay we are concerned with only one type of chemical containment. PCBs have settled into the waterbed and are found in trace amounts throughout the system. These chemicals are known to cause cancer and other health problems in humans. While PCBs are not harmful in the diluted amounts found in the  water,  the problem is that they build up and concentrate in fish tissues where we can ingest the higher and possibly more dangerous amounts,

PCBs are man-made chemicals that were used in electrical equipment like capacitors and transformers. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are oily liquids or solids, clear to yellow in color, with no smell or taste. The good news is that we don’t make them and pollute our water with them anymore. That means that the other good news is that the level of PCBs is going down in the Delaware Bay. The bad news is that they are everywhere in the environment,  last a long time, and are almost indestructable. PCBs are stable and remain in the environment at low levels for many decades,. However, the chemical is found to concentrate inside fish tissue, especially the fatty portion.

Both New Jersey and Delaware issue advisories limiting the recommended amount of fish that should be eaten.

Nutrient

The primary nutrient pollutant is nitrogen. Over abundance of nitrogen leads to low levels of water oxygen and fish kills. Nitrogen comes from fertilizer and farm runoff. When we discuss “water pollution” in the Delaware Bay, the discussion is focused on nutrients.

Bacteria

Several strains of potentially dangerous bacteria live in the Delaware Bay and they reach potentially harmful levels in summer. The bacteria we hear most about is E. coli from untreated bird, human or animal feces. Birds are the primary contributor of E. coli in the Delaware Bay occasionally after a storm or flood the source is identified as human. In these cases shellfish harvesting is temporarily halted. Our bay water at Money Island is tested regularly for E. coli and no problems lately. Other types of bacteria can cause infection of open wounds. It is important to clean and disinfect skin abrasions when working in or around the bay, especially in summer.

Overall our water quality compares well to surrounding waterways and is gradually improving.

What does all of this mean to us? It is pretty simple:

  1. follow shellfish harvesting rules
  2. Don’t consume too much of some fish species
  3. Clean and disinfect wounds.

Money Island in Philadephia Inquirer

On Sunday June 23, 2017 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story that covered Money Island New Jersey. Nantuxent Corporation’s founder Tony Novak is interviewed along with other business owners and Downe Township mayor Bob Campbell. The article drew some harsh criticism from the scientific community in response to the mayor’s comment that sea level rise damage is “hogwash”.

Read the article at:

http://www.philly.com/philly/health/on-the-delaware-bay-nj-town-struggles-against-sea-rise-will-money-island-vanish-20170625.html

Sea level rise response in Delaware and New Jersey

A tale of two vastly different responses to sea level rise

Money Island NJ (the gold star on the map) is located on the eastern shore of the Delaware Bay midway between the C&D canal connecting to the Chesapeake Bay to the northwest and Cape May to the southeast.

Here in the middle Delaware Bay we are bordered by two states: Delaware on the west and New Jersey on the east. Both sides of the bay are equally affected by sea level rise. Both states have lost towns in the past decade to the effects of sea level rise. Both states are suffering from decline in value of bayfront farmland and shorefront properties. Governments in both states are struggling equally with the cost of maintaining public services under these higher water conditions. But that’s where the similarity ends. The actual planning for dealing with sea level rise is far different between the two states. I’ve been actively engaged in the sea level rise response actions in both states for more than a decade and the differences in official government actions have been astounding.

The fishing town of Port Mahon, DE with its light house used to be visible directly across the bay from Money Island. The town is completely washed away and under water today.

The State of Delaware has a fully developed sea level rise response plan with the input and involvement of all stakeholders. Starting back in 2009 the state held a number of educational public meeting to solicit the best ideas from a wide range of sources. The state is preparing for sea level rise between 1.6 feet and 4.9 feet above their present levels by the year 2100. You can read the resulting executive summary sea level rise response plan titled “Preparing for Tomorrow’s High Tide” with plenty more details on the state’s web site.

These homes at Money Island NJ were purchased by the state for demolition under the Green Acres program and the property may be used for environmental education and research. This photo is taken at low tide showing water level as it used to be decades ago. Now at high tide these lots are completely under water.

The State of New Jersey is barely past the point of denial of the existence of sea level rise. Some NJ government officials appear to still be in denial. You can read recent (September 2017) news coverage by David Kutner in Asbury Park Press criticizing New jersey’s lack of sea level rise response. Local Downe Township Mayor calling sea level rise “hogwash” in the June 2017 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Until now, the state’s primary official response is to truck sand to damaged shorelines and purchase, then demolish, homes that are in danger of increased flooding. This is not a sustainable response plan especially if sea level rise continues to advance by another 1.5 to 3 feet within our lifetime. New Jersey has recently come as far as to now officially recognize the risk of sea level rise response. You can read the state’s official positions here. The state’s web site positions still lag behind the most recent sea level rise research available through Rutgers and NOAA. To New Jersey’s credit, the state is now taking sea level rise response seriously. We still have a long way to go. But we can and will develop a response plan that our residents can rely upon.

Governor Christie said that he was unaware of Money Island in this 2015 radio show. It is our belief that unelected appointed officials at the NJDEP have been mostly responsible for the state’s illogical and damaging government policies that harmed us during the Christie era.

Now is the time of maximum opportunity for individuals and organizations to influence and contribute to our sea level rise response plan so that New Jersey will eventually catch up with the State of Delaware in meeting  this challenge. No doubt Money Island’s educational/research community and the commercial fishing community will continue to have a lot to say on the topic. We know that sea level rise is a manageable phenomenon and are ready to embrace both the challenges and opportunities presented by sea level rise.

Effect of sea level rise

This video features Downe Township mayor Bob Campbell, local business owner Paul Waterman, and other local residents talking about the state buyouts of property at Money Island, New Jersey. The buyout of residences along both sides of the Delaware Bay is an essential prerequisite and enabling factor for the expansion of education, aquaculture and marine fisheries activity in the future. Naturally this causes tensions within the community. Money Island’s past existence with quiet waterside residences in a recreational fishing community has given way to a more active future in eco-tourism and education, aquaculture and commercial seafood harvesting. Nantuxent Corporation founder Tony Novak points out that this inevitable tension directly led to the community’s fast transformation in recent years and the sustainable eco-friendly redevelopment opportunity that exists today.

In fact, while seas and climate-related water changes are bad for residential communities and recreational fishing, these changes are generally helpful to the aquaculture and commercial seafood harvesting industry.

Nantuxent Corporation works in partnership with a number of commercial, educational, government and nonprofit entities to help balance the interests of all stakeholders. Striking this balance will help speed up the redevelopment of Money Island as an aquaculture and educational hub if the middle bay region.

New Jersey’s most productive seafood landing ports

Many people in this Mid-Atlantic region recognize that Cape May, New Jersey is a major seafood landing port with well over $100 million in annual landings. In fact Cape May is among the top five seafood landing ports in the U.S.

Yet few people know that tiny rural port of Money Island, New Jersey is the state’s second most productive seafood port. Almost all of the commercial oyster harvest and a substantial harvest of crabs and other seafood are harvested nearby and brought in through docks at Cumberland County’s commercial waterfront at Money Island. Estimates of the economic value start at $20+ million per year. The Delaware Bay is at the beginning of a dynamic growth stage for commercial aquaculture, just as we saw in the Chesapeake bay over the prior decade. Money Island, located 40 miles to the northwest and midway between the C&D Canal (linking to the Chesapeake Bay) and the Atlantic Ocean.

My company, Baysave Corporation, is a locally funded nonprofit organization focused on bringing the benefits of this expanding seafood industry to the local community by helping watermen make the most of their expanding business opportunities. For more information on how you can get involved, contact me at tnovak@baysave.org.