PALLONE ASKS EPA & ARMY CORPS TO INVESTIGATE WHY FLOATABLE ACTION PLAN DIDN'T PREVENT GARBAGE FROM REACHING BEACHES IN MONMOUTH COUNTY
Washington, D.C. --- After numerous conversations yesterday with state and federal agencies working to clean up garbage discovered along several beaches in Monmouth County, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today questioned why a federal program created to prevent such problems did not work this week.
On Wednesday, after garbage began washing up on the beaches in northeastern Monmouth County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered a seven-mile garbage slick about one-half mile off the coast of Sandy Hook.
Concerned there was likely a breakdown in the federal action plan to deal with garbage before it hits the beach, Pallone today asked EPA and the Army Corps to investigate why the "floatable action plan" did not work this week. In 1989, the Army Corps and the EPA Region 2 designed the plan to remove garbage from the New York/New Jersey Harbor to prevent beach closures, adverse impacts on coastal species and commercial and recreational boating.
"To date, the plan has significantly reduced the amount of garbage in the harbor and subsequently diminished the number of beach closures resulting from trash," Pallone wrote in a letter to EPA Region 2 Director Jane Kenny and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Richard J. Polo, Jr. "However, this recent garbage slick indicates there are several flaws in the floatable action plan, and I'm concerned that if these flaws are not immediately addressed our coastal environment may become susceptible to future garbage slicks."
Being that this slick occurred immediately following or possibly during a holiday weekend, Pallone voiced his concern that the holiday caused a delay of both communications between the Army Corps and the EPA, seriously undermining the Army Corps' ability to begin the clean up process in a timely manner.
"I am greatly disturbed that your agencies did not immediately spring into action earlier this week to ensure that the garbage was contained and removed from the New York/New Jersey harbor before it reached the Atlantic Ocean," Pallone wrote in his letters to the EPA and Army Corps. "While this slick has not caused any beach closings to date, I am worried that if an effective plan is not instituted immediately, our beaches can see the ill effects of such occurrences.
Pallone asked the two federal agencies to answer several questions to ensure the floatable plan works well in the future. Specifically, when did the EPA learn of the slick and where was it initially located? When did the EPA contact the Army Corps and what action did the Army Corps take? Did the EPA have helicopters flying over the harbor monitoring the marine environment during the holiday weekend and more specifically on Monday, July 5, 2004? Do skimmer boats continue full time operations during the holiday weekends?
"Answers to these important questions will allow the agencies to rectify the mistakes made this past weekend so we can ensure that a breakdown like this does not occur in the future," Pallone continued in his letter. "Our coastal environment has been steadily improving over the last 10 years thanks to all of our dedication to finding solutions to environmental problems along the shore. We must continue to work together so that we do not revert to a time when debris and trash plagued our waterways and beaches."