The summer of 1987 was a very difficult summer for the New Jersey shore. A 50-mile garbage slick, including medical waste, loomed off the coast. After three days of closed beaches in August, the tourist season was essentially over for LBI.
During September 1987, Ken Smith, an LBI insurance broker, led a group of concerned citizens to address the problem of ocean pollution. Karen Kiss (ALO’s first president) and John Woodland were also instrumental in the early days.
The group’s first priority was to find the source of the pollution and stop it there.
During the first year of this grassroots organization, ALO worked hard to focus public attention on the problem and to make people realize that something could be done.
Early activities included:
- “Hands Across the Beach” to make a public statement about the degradation of the ocean water quality. Karen rallied more than 40,000 people of all ages to join hands on a rainy Saturday afternoon along the entire length of Long Beach Island’s 18 miles of ocean front.
- Letter-writing campaigns to urge the New Jersey Legislature and the Federal government to take urgent action.
- Partnering with other organizations that were actively promoting ocean cleanup activities.
- ALO’s first educational seminar on ocean pollution at Southern Regional High School.
- Organizing a N.J. Environment Congress at Allaire State Park.
Throughout this, ALO’s leaders focused on educating themselves about the problem and its scope. A fitting conclusion to its first year, ALO became officially incorporated on December 31, 1987.
15-Years of Mission to Action
ALO translated its mission statement into action by adopting a three-pronged strategy. ALO’s activities to protect the ocean, beach, and bays were focused in three areas:
- Legislative action
- Local activities and individual responsibilities
- Educational programs
Stopping pollution at its source was of primary concern. Since this requires governmental action, ALO fought to influence State and Federal legislation. There were many pivotal successes in those first 10 years.
ALO joined with other like-minded groups and was instrumental in changing policy. In February 1989, a major milestone was the passage of the “New Jersey Medical Waste Tracking Law.” Drawing on her background as a registered nurse, Karen Kiss took a lead role in the testimonies that led to the passage of this law. This law requires “cradle to grave” tracking of all hazardous medical waste products. Medical waste would no longer be an anonymous issue.
ALO actions eventually led to passage of a law that stopped Ciba-Geigy chemical plant in Toms River from dumping chemical waste into the ocean. The Ciba-Geigy pipeline was closed in 1991.
ALO took a lead role in the successful effort to pass the “Clean Water Enforcement Act.” Even in the early days, before recycling was a standard, ALO was active in encouraging plastic recycling. The group also influenced the passing of Federal and State laws in the 90s to prohibit sludge dumping.
ALO was very vocal in urging the Fresh Kills Landfill to use closed handling methods. It was estimated that this landfill alone contributed tons of floatable waste to the ocean every day because of improper handling of the landfill material. Penalties for illegal dumping have now increased to criminal status. The Fresh Kills Landfill is closed.
ALO continues to monitor non-point source pollution and is wokring to address the issue of combined-sewer overflow, both of which continue to lead to floatables.
ALO organized a massive Wetlands postcard campaign against the reduction of Wetlands acreage in conjunction with the LBI Garden Club. Of the postcards received in Washington, 5% came from ALO supporters. In October of 1992 we joined the Garden Club in their efforts to educate the community on the effects of pesticides/herbicides used on coastal yards. A resultant DEP study took place on LBI.
ALO opposed oil drilling in wildlife refuges and marine environments, and, in 1992, ALO acted as a facilitator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in their plans for the Bonnet Island Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge and sent helpers to the Holgate Wildlife Refuge. ALO referred all reported marine mammal strandings to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine and still supports their important work.
Honors and awards:
- 1988, 1992 “Take Pride in America” award for our adopt-a-beach program
- 1990 “Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, Inc.” award for environmental commitment to the community
- 1990 “Ocean County Soil Conservation District” award for conservation achievement of the year
- 1992 EPA “Environmental Quality” award for our Crab Connection Program
- 1996 “A Partnership of Environmental Concern and Duty Award” from CMC for the Marine Debris Monitoring Program.
- 1998 for ALO’s “Barnegat Bay Watch Monitoring Program”
- 1999 Governor’s Volunteer Award for the Environment
- 2002 Long Beach Township honored ALO with an award for their dedication in working to preserve a clean ocean environment
- N.J. Pride Award was given to Joan Koons, President of ALO, for her outstanding volunteerism with ALO
Over the years, environmental issues have changed, but we think you’ll notice plenty of parallels between our past and what we’re working on today!