MONTCLAIR, NJ –  Two New Jersey community groups have begun their final weeks of summer water pollution monitoring with support of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “citizen science” grants.  The New York/New Jersey Baykeeper and Friends of Bonsal Preserve have begun using the $25,000 grants to monitor water quality on tributaries of the New York/New Jersey Harbor.  The groups are testing for the bacteria Enterococcus, which indicates the presence of fecal contamination, and are also measuring general water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, pH, and temperature. Sampling concludes in late August.

The New York/New Jersey Baykeeper is collecting samples on the Matawan Creek and South River which flows from South River to Keyport, New Jersey and The Friends of the Bonsal Preserve project area is the Third River, which flows from Montclair to Clifton, New Jersey. The groups are collecting GPS coordinates and basic water quality information, and are performing analysis of bacteria levels at local laboratories, including the EPA’s laboratory in Edison.

The Third River, also known as the Yantecaw River, is the third main river that feeds into the Passaic River flowing through Passaic and Essex County.  Originating in the Great Notch Reservoir in Woodland Park, Third River runs through Montclair, Little Falls and Clifton. Flowing into Clifton a second time, Third River then runs through the Upper Montclair Country Club, Glen Ridge Country Club, Bloomfield and throughout Nutley ending up in the Passaic River in Clifton.

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While no abnormalities have been identified in Montclair at this time, water quality monitoring is a routine procedure that includes the sampling and analysis of water constituents and conditions such as introduced pollutants, such as pesticides, metals and oil.  Routine monitoring can also identify constituents found naturally in water that can nevertheless be affected by human sources, such as dissolved oxygen, bacteria, and nutrients.

The magnitude of their effects can be influenced by factors such as pH and temperature. For example, temperature influences the quantity of dissolved oxygen that water is able to contain, and pH affects the toxicity of ammonia.

The EPA indicates that, “Volunteers, as well as state and local water quality professionals, have been monitoring water quality conditions for many years. In fact, until the past decade or so (when biological monitoring protocols were developed and began to take hold), water quality monitoring was generally considered the primary way of identifying water pollution problems. Today, professional water quality specialists and volunteer program coordinators alike are moving toward approaches that combine chemical, physical, and biological monitoring methods to achieve the best picture of water quality conditions.”

Water quality monitoring can be used for many purposes that include identifying whether waters are meeting designated uses such as swimming, fishing and drinking, to identify specific pollutants or sources of pollution, to determine trends over time or to screen for impairment as an early warning sign of potential problems.

“Citizen science is an important, growing field that can provide invaluable insight into pollution problems in local communities,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This funding will help inform local residents about the environmental conditions in their own backyards.”

Citizen science enlists the public in collecting a wide range of environmental data and is an important tool for expanding scientific knowledge and literacy. EPA citizen science grants are used to help organizations collect information on air and water pollution in their communities and seek solutions to environmental and public health problems.  

In May 2014, the EPA conducted a two day training session for 15-20 volunteers from both the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper and Friends of the Bonsal Preserve.  EPA scientists provided lectures and hands on demonstrations on operating GPS devices, water quality meters, data management techniques, and laboratory analysis. From June through the end of August 2014, each organization is conducting sampling five times per month at 10 sampling stations.

Equipment used by the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper and Friends of the Bonsal Preserve is part of the EPA’s new equipment loan program. Sampling and laboratory equipment is often the most expensive part of a monitoring program. Through this initiative, citizen science groups will be able to collect data in their own communities with fewer up-front costs. By lending this equipment to eligible community groups, the EPA hopes to allow more citizen scientists the opportunity to collect high quality data and increase environmental stewardship in their community.

For more information on Citizen Science, visit: