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Barnegat Bay Blitz Kicks Off Thursday [AUDIO]

Thousands of volunteers will be donning their gloves and picking up trash along the shore this Thursday in the third installment of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Barnegat Bay Blitz.

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The inaugural version of the cleanup in October of 2011 and the follow up event in May 2012 resulted in 6,,800 volunteers collecting more than 3,200 bags of trash and recyclables, filling forty dumpsters. The cleanups target wetlands, stream banks, storm water discharge points, school grounds, trails, docks, and areas around bulkheads, as well as the bay itself.

Volunteers are expected to come out from all 37 municipalities in 660 square mile watershed, which encompasses 33 municipalities in Ocean County and four in Monmouth County. Larry Rangonese, spokesperson for the DEP, says even towns that aren’t necessarily on the watershed should participate to understand the impact they have.

“If you live eight miles from the Bay and you think ‘Oh what I do doesn’t make a difference. I can change the oil in my car and pour it into the ground.’ Well one day that ends up in Barnegat Bay.”

Rangonese adds their goal is to explain to the public that individual actions can make a difference, both positively and negatively.

“So when you’re out there and you see the beer bottles and the old tiers and clothes and people who have thrown an old sofa into the watershed, you understand that those actions really harm the Bay.”

He notes they are battling to reverse the damage done to the Bay over multiple decades, and it will take time to get the watershed back to a healthy condition.

“It’s like a car doing eighty miles an hour, you hit the brake, it screeches to a halt. Now we’re going to start accelerate again and go in the other direction.”

The effort is part of the public education component of the Governor’s 10 point plan for restoring the health of the Barnegat Bay. The Department of Environmental Protection partners with the New Jersey Clean Communities Council, MATES Academy at the Ocean County Vocational School, NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust, The Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, ReClam the Bay, and the American Council of Engineering Companies. They also receive support from United Water, ShopRite, Wawa, and Rowbear Consulting Co.

The Blitz will run from 8am to dusk, rain or shine. Commissioner Martin will pitch in at several locations throughout the day, and Deputy Commissioner Irene Kropp will lead the opening ceremony at the DEP’s Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson at 8:30 am.

The DEP will provide rain barrels that students can decorate. From January 25th through February 15th, the public will be able to view the decorated barrels from the participating schools and vote on their favorite.

The winning school will receive a Barnegat Bay Festival Day at their school featuring hands-on demonstrations and programs designed to engage students about the bay and the importance of water.

The trash that volunteers collect will be turned over to local public works departments for proper disposal. Much of it, such as bottles and cans, will be recycled.

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