R-FH juniors Tyler Lubin, left, and Noah Tucker at the Fair Haven Dock. Below, a map of Navesink River waters showing areas where shellfish harvesting is banned or suspended. (Photo above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Alarmed by an increase in fecal coliform in their beloved Navesink River, two Fair Haven high school students are driving a campaign to head off the pollution.
Noah Tucker and Tyler Lubin, both 17-year-old juniors at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, are trying to raise funds for the purchase of storm-sewer filters, and to win the right from upstream towns to install them.
In January, 2015, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection suspended shellfish harvesting in 566 acres of the Navesink River because of unacceptably high levels of fecal coliform attributed in part to stormwater runoff.
Tucker, who rows crew on the river, and Lubin, who spends many hours each year boating it, “just wanted to do something” to counter the increase, said Tucker.
“After all the programs of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s to clean up the river, a polluted river is not something we ought to settle for,” said Lubin.
Research led them to storm-drain filters made by an Ohio company called Filtrexx. Similar filters, which lie like oil booms around the mouth of a storm drain, are commonly used on a temporary basis by the construction industry to provide a barrier against drain blockages, they said.
According to Tucker, the addition tof a chemical agent similar to one used in water filtration plants raises the filter’s effectiveness in blocking fecal coliform to about 95 percent.
Last month, Tucker and Lubin embarked on a crowdsourcing effort to raise $6,500 for the purchase of 100 filters, which they’d like to see used in Red Bank, Tinton Falls and Lincroft.
“Putting more filters upstream will help more” because that’s where the nonsource point contaminants are at higher levels, Lubin said.
The pair met recently with Kyle Clonan, a staff advisor to the Monmouth County Environmental Council, who offered them some advice on dealing with local officials, they said.
The filter raises concerns, though.
“I love the passion, I love the concept,” said Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli. Still, the filters can be expected to impede the flow of stormwater that’s carrying leaves and other debris that piles up around them, he said. And the filters will have to be placed only on drains where there’s no chance of creating an obstruction to cyclists and pedestrians.
“They’ll also need to check with the borough engineers and have a maintenance plan in place,” Lucarelli said.
The safety issue can be addressed by using a variation on the sock that rests inside a storm drain, said Lubin.
As of Thursday morning, the pair had raised nearly $5,000 from 91 donors through a Go Fund Me campaign.
“People have really been coming together on this, because everybody loves this river,” Tucker said.