For Summer 2021 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and our Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County partners are building up our pathogens monitoring program in several new ways.
- With grant support from The Watershed Institute we have engaged Jocelyn Palomino as a Project Coordinator to lead sampling and conduct outreach focused on engagement with the Spanish-speaking community. This will involve sampling demonstrations at our Perth Amboy 2nd Street Park site, boat trips, and more.
- Earlier this Spring we started meeting with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding improving our understanding of pathogens flows into the Raritan. In addition to our six (6) non-bathing public access beach monitoring sites, for Summer 2021 the EPA will monitor an additional 22 in-channel sites for fecal/enterococcus going all the way up to Bound Brook and including the D&R Canal;
- With support from the EPA, we will continue genetic source studies at our 6 sites AS WELL AS at the EPA’s 22 new sites to determine whether the fecal is human/bird/dog/horse etc.;
- We are working with Interstate Environmental Commission to compare IDEXX vs. membrane filtration technology. This means that each of our samples will be analyzed by BOTH methods during this monitoring season. It will be an interesting comparison to run these numbers for the whole summer. NJDEP ONLY accepts the more stringent IDEXX method.
- We are working with Rutgers Office of Analytics to develop a predictive model based on our data. That is, our goal with the model is to input precipitation, rainfall, tidal influence, etc. for those dates that we cannot go out sampling, and still get a good sense for what the likelihood of fecal/entero levels.
- We are planning more water-based reconnaissance for outfalls and compromised sewage infrastructure at our sites, particularly the Piscataway site.
- We are working with Brenda Allen, a doctoral candidate with the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, to help us understand possible land use impacts on our numbers, and help us prioritize where we start our on-the-ground sleuthing;
- We are working with a start-up technology company to deploy a water-based drone that can travel the Raritan catching samples as-needed. They will deploy the drone within the next few weeks.
We continue to build a research program to better understand risks, and in this regard we are working to get Middlesex County Health involved. With EPA now very invested, we hope that with the IDEXX vs. membrane filtration comparison study we’ll be able to convince NJDEP to work with us (and our data) as well.