Aerial View Aids Clean Beaches and Waterways

By Ciarra Greene

On an average morning, while most of you are just starting your morning commute and fighting your way through traffic, I take to the sky in the EPA Coastal Crusader Helicopter. The initial excitement of flying by the Statue of Liberty and the infamous Manhattan skyline soon wore off when I had to peer through a thick layer of haze and fill my notebook with daily reports of floating debris. My objective is to survey the waterways of New York and New Jersey for massive “slicks” or “patches” of wood, trash, and oil. Coming from the country, viewing the thousands of cars in transit, endless sky traffic, bustling waterways, and well over eight million in population, I came to realize how contaminated this area could be. Working closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers, I make a daily impact on the environmental contamination that persists in this region. Tens of thousands of pounds of floatables have been collected during my summer stint! Cleaning up these waterways not only provides a safe corridor for water vessels to travel through, but also, and most importantly, it provides cleaner beaches.

Speaking of beaches, as a weekly task I complete water sampling off the shores of Long Island and New Jersey beaches. Although I am on the clock, I take time to enjoy the view of dozens of dolphin pods, massive schools of fish, and blankets of stingrays swimming below. My favorite part of the job though, is waving to the summer beach goers. Their appreciation, happiness, and most importantly, their safety, gives me a reason to come to work every day. So, although I miss the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I feel that “Greene-ing” New York and New Jersey is an impact I can personally make.

Ciarra Greene grew up in Idaho, a land where rolling wheat fields and wooded mountains stretch for miles. So what was her motivation for stepping into the completely new world of Edison, NJ and trying city life? Three words – Helicopter Monitoring Program.