🔵 Kean University coastal team to study impacts of climate change and other issues affecting Raritan Bay in Keyport

🔵 The study will look into root causes of environmental issues impacting Raritan Bay and pitch solutions to address these problems

🔵 The Kean University coastal team plans to expand studies across Monmouth and Ocean Counties

A coastal research team comprising staff and students at Kean University will study how climate change and other environmental issues are impacting the health of Raritan Bay in Keyport.

Raritan Bay, Keyport logo
Raritan Bay, Keyport logo (Google Maps)

Kean University coastal research team studying Raritan Bay in Keyport

Daniela Shebitz, chairwoman of the Kean University Department of Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, says their biggest concerns are pollutants and damage that include and pre-date Superstorm Sandy.

"Keyport is a very fascinating location because it is where Sandy Hook Bay and Raritan Bay connect and as such, there's a lot of water dynamics that are happening and a lot of vulnerability in terms of climate change and storm damage," Shebitz said.

This means that a lot can happen between these two waterways.

Sandy Hook Bay
Sandy Hook Bay (Bud McCormick)

Landfill in Keyport has caused environmental concerns for decades

One of the major focuses of this study is looking into and finding solutions for the decades of negative impacts caused by a retired landfill in Keyport.

"Now, it was retired back in 1979, but, there's solid waste and benzene PCPs, methane, aluminum, arsenic -- all leaching into the Raritan Bay from there," Shebitz said. "This is a major concern for the town, it's a major concern for the people who use the water, who fish from the water."

As part of their research, Shebitz adds that they look into any and all negative impacts to the local community as they relate to social and environmental risks.

Keyport and Kean University coastal team collectively work towards healthier water

The Kean University coastal study team has partnered with the governing body in Keyport with a joint goal of addressing the environmental problems with the Raritan Bay.

"The town of Keyport is very excited to work with us. They signed a resolution back in December to allow us to conduct various research studies along the borough's waterfront with hopes that we could really make a difference for the people and to the environment there," Shebitz said.

Keyport (Bud McCormick)

Private closed landfill causing concerns along Raritan Bay in Keyport

Though closed for 44 years at this point, the private landfill in Keyport is still causing troubling impacts to the Raritan Bay and the nearby community.

"There is a large concern. In fact, there was a lawsuit that was filed about it where the town of Keyport was really trying to get the old Bay Ridge Realty to properly cover and cap the site," Shebitz said. "It was improperly capped when it was retired."

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, wrote an editorial for CentralJersey.com in 2021 highlighting this lawsuit.

Even if this landfill site does eventually get capped properly, Shebitz explains that a lot of damage has already been done.

"What we're looking at is some heavy metals that have been accumulating over the past 40-plus years in the water," Shebitz said. "That's a very big concern for people who adore this area but it's also a very big concern for all the animals and plant life that relies on it."

The future health of Raritan Bay is concerning and unclear

One of the larger focal points of the Kean University study getting underway is how all of this combined with climate change is bringing on unhealthy impacts to Raritan Bay.

"As we start seeing more severe storms, because of climate change, we could really see that a lot more of the groundwater that might be contaminated will leach directly into the bay," Shebitz said.

Climate change negatively impacting the health of Raritan Bay and Jersey Shore

The sneaking speed of climate change is having a real impact on many Jersey Shore communities and waterways and it's led to multiple studies by groups such as the Barnegat Bay Partnership led by Dr. Stan Hales and here with the Kean University coastal research team.

Climate change is seemingly showing itself as a ticking clock.

"It's a very scary ticking clock, I think that every moment when there's a storm I'm sure people who are along the coast always start feeling flashbacks to Superstorm Sandy, which was 10 years ago, and that did massive amounts of damage not just to Keyport but to the entire shoreline," Shebitz said. "We know that with climate change, we're seeing more severe storms and they're closer in proximity, in higher frequencies."

Shebitz adds that they're worried about the impacts of things like storm damage and beach erosion in this area of Keyport and across the Jersey Shore as well.

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