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Floatables Action Plan Environmental Protection Agency

Sewer systems in and around the New York/New Jersey Harbor are designed so that during periods of wet weather, excess flows are discharged to the Harbor waters. These excess flows contain floating debris (“floatables”) including both street litter (paper, plastics, bottles, etc.) and toilet-generated waste such as hygiene products. When discharged to the Harbor waters, floatables tend to congregate in large groupings, or slicks, that can exit the Harbor and wash up on beaches depending on wind and tidal conditions.

In the late 1980s floatables that included medical debris (syringes, vials, etc.) washed ashore on ocean beaches in New Jersey and Long Island. This resulted in beach closures and in multi-billion dollar revenue losses by beach communities.

In response, EPA Region 2 initiated the multi-agency Floatables Action Plan, designed to capture slicks of floatables before they exit the Harbor, thus protecting ocean beaches. The Plan involves several means of controlling floatables, such as:

These methods have minimized beach closings resulting from floatables washing ashore, and they have prevented tons of floatables from reaching the Harbor.

EPA prepares an annual assessment of the Plan which provides a summary of the inter-agencies efforts to address floatable debris.

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