By JOHN T. WARD
Mark Lockwood spent the night on his boat at the Shrewsbury River Yacht Club in Fair Haven Friday, and woke to the sight of a Navesink River gone brown. The worst kind of brown, he thought.
Though it didn’t smell, it appeared to be human waste, he said.
“It was disgusting,” he told a Fair Haven police officer who’d come to the club to investigate Saturday evening. “I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been on this river all my life.”
Ben Hamilton, whose home abuts the club property, said he had never seen anything like it, either.
But whatever they saw, it wasn’t from the town’s sanitary sewer, said an official with the regional sewerage authority that serves the borough. And it may have been pollen.
“We can guarantee that the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority pipe isn’t leaking,” TRWRA commissioner and yacht club member Bill Baarck told redbankgreen Saturday night, referring to a waste pipe that runs just beneath the Navesink River shore from Gillespie Avenue east to the yacht club, where it meets a pumping station.
“But we can’t guarantee that tides and winds haven’t brought in pollutants from elsewhere, over which we have no control,” he said.
Though he said he had not seen the brown tide himself, other recent reports of human waste one on the Metedeconk River, and one at a location he could not immediately recall turned out to be vast collections of dead pollen on the water, Baarck said.
An authority inspector investigated the Navesink report and found no sign of leakage along the beach, either from the buried pipeline or the several manhole-topped access holes along its length, he said.
The entire stretch of pipe, which is about 40 years old, is scheduled to be replaced soon, with heavy construction equipment slated for delivery to the beach via the yacht club’s ramp as early as Monday. Baarck said the work is preventative.
Mayor Ben Lucarelli tells redbankgreen that a recent video inspection of the pipe found river water infiltrating the system at the foot of Gillespie Avenue, but that no sewage was getting into the river.
“It’s in weak condition,” Baarck said, and was one reason the authority sought and obtained state Department of Environmental Protection permits to replace the piping with a new system.
The new pipes will be laid next the existing pipes and, when completed, a cut-over from old system will be scheduled for the middle of the night to prevent any waste from getting into the river, he said.
Lockwood and Hamilton said the brown stuff appeared to have come from the west, based on Saturday’s winds. Baarck said that while the authority ruled out the Fair Haven system as its source, he could not rule out the possibility that it had come from the Red Bank system.
Lockwood and other club members said they sometimes see post-storm waste from the Middletown side of the river, where mansions along Navesink River Road are not hooked into a sewer and rely instead on septic tanks. But Saturday’s brown blob was far larger, they told redbankgreen.