By Sarah Peterson
EPA Region 2 is one of several partners assisting the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for the past two years with a water quality survey of Barnegat Bay. We have been sampling weekly from March-October each year and bi-weekly during the winter months. One of the overall goals of this project is to monitor the water quality of the bay because previous data shows that dissolved oxygen and pathogen indicators have exceeded water quality standards in certain areas within Barnegat Bay. Nutrient loading in Barnegat Bay is also a prevalent issue and collaborators on this project hope to identify numeric criteria or nutrient loading targets and revise existing surface water quality standards to set restoration endpoints for the bay.
The EPA has been responsible for sampling at three locations located throughout Barnegat Bay and one located near Barnegat Light. When we are out in the field we take readings for water temperature, pH, specific conductance, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. Surface samples that are collected are analyzed for many different parameters, some of which include: Chlorophyll a, Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, Total Organic Carbon, Alkalinity, Turbidity, and Total Silica. Bottom samples are also collected at each sampling location and are analyzed for similar parameters.
In late February 2013, we were near Barnegat Light when we saw what looked like driftwood washed up on a mudflat. As we got closer, we realized it wasn’t driftwood at all. It was a pod of harbor seals sunning themselves. We continued to see this pod of harbor seals for the next five sampling events. As the temperatures have started to increase, recently, the seals have been in the water rather than on the mudflat, but can still be seen near Barnegat Light. Harbor seals are native to the coast of New Jersey but are not commonly seen, approximately 100 harbor seals call NJ home during the winter months. The harbor seals usually migrate further north by the middle of April. The seals we saw on Barnegat Bay were between five and six feet in length and about 200-250 pounds.
About the Author: Sarah Peterson is an ORISE fellow with the Air and Water Quality Assurance Team within the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment in Edison. She has a BS in Environmental Science and Zoology and a Masters in Environmental Science from Miami University.