NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Three Years Since Sandy

By: Keith Cialino, New England Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Today marks the third anniversary of Sandy’s landfall in the mid-Atlantic. Hurricane Sandy resulted in severe damage to many communities, leaving a swath of destruction and large amounts of debris in coastal waters and marshes.

The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 provided NOAA with supplemental funding to support the removal of debris generated by Sandy that was not removed immediately after the storm. NOAA developed formal agreements with the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, as well as New York City, for debris removals. In addition, we provided support to the state of Delaware for the detection of storm-related debris in coastal areas. Many of the debris removal projects are ongoing, and to date have resulted in the removal of approximately 375 metric tons of debris from sensitive coastal habitats, including marshes, wetlands and tidal creeks. As with many events of this magnitude, the impacts of the storm continue to be felt and cleanup efforts are ongoing three years later. However, with the united efforts of many people and organizations, a great deal of progress has been made toward recovery.

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Nike Marsh Cleanup in Lido Beach, NY Inspires Volunteers

By: Dr. Jason Williams, Guest Blogger

Dr. Williams is a professor at Hofstra University and leads cleanup efforts as part of a Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

This past fall, Hofstra University, Long Beach School District, and Long Island Volunteer Center (LIVC) organized a fall clean-up of the Nike Marsh in Lido Beach, New York. The Nike Alternative High School is located on the property, which is the former home of the United States Army Nike Missile Battery NY-29/30.


Volunteers remove marine debris from Lido Beach, NY.


Nearly 50 volunteers assisted during the event, including members from Capital One and Zurich North America. It was a beautiful fall day to be on the marsh, and in total the volunteers removed 5.71 tons of debris! The debris included two overflowing 20-yard dumpsters of large timbers, tires, foam and other materials. In addition, some of the volunteers worked on removing smaller items and trash, like bottles and plastics, which had accumulated on the marsh. Donated funds from LIVC were used to buy supplies for the volunteers that assisted in the clean-up (boots, gloves, wheelbarrows and other equipment).

Some of the volunteers expressed their thoughts about the day:

“Very inspiring work.  Don’t realize how much needs to be done with the aftermath of Sandy.”

“When are you doing this again?  Would love to come back.  Happy to help. Maybe these students will want to be marine biologists one day.”

“Very rewarding to help an alternative school and pave the way for students to learn more about the environment and decide who they want to be because many people don’t understand what the Nike School is all about.  This school helps them explore who they are as people.” 

Hofstra University plans to schedule additional cleanups through spring of 2015.


New York State Removing Sandy Marine Debris from 10 Sites

By: Ron Ohrel

The 2012 storm known as Sandy inflicted severe damage to communities over large areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, leaving a swath of destruction and large amounts of debris in the coastal waters and marshes. This summer, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, impacted states have started to clean up more of what remains.

While a great deal of marine debris has already been removed, there is still some in particularly in hard-to-reach or less trafficked areas. The debris behind sand dunes and in wetlands, marshes, and tidal creeks poses hazards to safety, navigation, fishing grounds, and sensitive ecosystems. A great deal of the debris is structural, including docks and decks from houses. There are also derelict vessels, lumber, and household items.

Following the disaster, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program worked with the states to determine where additional marine debris removal was needed. NOAA established a formal agreement with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation that enables debris cleanup at 10 sites, including nine waterfront state parks on Long Island.

Led by Parks’ Regional Environmental Manager Annie McIntyre, the project involves manual removal of construction debris, broken docks, timber, and other miscellaneous items. In many cases, the debris is located hundreds of yards from shore in back dunes, landward edges of marshes, and along tree and shrub lines—demonstrating the magnitude of Sandy’s storm surge. “The winter after Sandy, we were walking along the beaches and we saw lots and lots of debris way back in the bushes,” explained McIntyre. “We knew that we were never going to have the time or manpower to get to them, so when this program became available, I was really excited. It’s a tremendous opportunity to get this debris out of the ecosystem.”

Cleanup at the state parks is now underway. Since June, seasonal employees have been at work, withstanding summer heat, high vegetation, and biting insects while removing tons of debris. The crew consists of current college students or recent graduates. Many were on Long Island when Sandy came ashore.

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The storm’s impact is still being discovered. “What surprised me most is actually how much is still out here, almost a couple years after Sandy,” said team member Maryellen Costantino. “It’s interesting to see how badly some places got hit and how far the water came inland.” Coworker Joe Squeglia agreed: “There’s so much debris out here—little things, big things, refrigerators, boats, little plastic pieces. It’s really shocking how much is out in the environment.”

The crew is doing its part to reduce that amount. They removed more than two tons of debris from Jones Beach State Park alone, with more still to be recovered. Work at all park sites will end this fall.

The NOAA-New York agreement also will allow for debris removal at a tidal wetland located in the Long Island Town of Hempstead and managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Work at that site will begin in fall 2014.

In addition to New York State, NOAA has reached formal agreements with Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York City. Those projects will be highlighted in future posts.


Help Track Sandy Debris for Cleanup

By: Ron Ohrel

Marine debris beach cleanup volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Marine debris beach cleanup volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Sandy left behind a swath of damage, hurling building materials, docks and piers, vehicles, and other large debris in the waters and marshes of affected states. Removal of that debris takes great effort but is necessary to maintain navigation routes, ensure safe boating, swimming, and other recreational activities, and protect sensitive ecosystems.

Much debris has been removed, but more remains. NOAA needs assistance in identifying its location, and you can help. All it takes is an Android or iPhone and an interest in cleaning up our waterways!

If you spot large debris items that Sandy left behind, either while participating in organized cleanups or during the course of your normal beach-going activities, please let us know through the Marine Debris Tracker. The information will be used to assist any future planning efforts. (**Editor’s note: Quick point of clarification! Some readers have asked if this means the NOAA Marine Debris Program will come clean up the Sandy debris that is tracked. At this point, no. We’re just asking for help locating it!)

How can you help?

  1. Download the Marine Debris Tracker app (, available on both Android and iPhone platforms.
  2. Use the app to record the location and type of debris you find during organized cleanups or your normal activities. Focus on large materials that cannot be easily removed and that you think could have been caused by the storm. Examples include large pieces of wood or concrete, house siding, abandoned boats, yard items (e.g., grills, lawnmowers), and refrigerators and other appliances.
  3. Including a photo of each item is especially helpful.
    – Android users: Follow the prompt for uploading a photo.
    – iPhone users: Email a photo along with information about the debris item’s location to
  4. Submit your findings by logging into the app and using the user name “sandy” and password “sandy.” 

Do not approach any items that may be dangerous, such as oil or chemical drums, gas cans, or propane tanks. Look for hazard symbols. If you encounter a potentially hazardous item, mark the location, warn others, and take photos. You should then call proper authorities, such as a park ranger or beach manager and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 to report the hazardous material item with as much information as possible. 9-1-1 or other emergency hotlines may not be an appropriate contact for hazardous marine debris unless it poses an immediate danger to human health. Do not touch or handle the item.

Questions about this effort can be directed to Ron Ohrel, Sandy Marine Debris Coordinator: For questions about the Marine Debris Tracker app, please email



Stay tuned for more on the MDP’s on-going Sandy marine debris efforts.