(August 2020)--There are currently three beaches closed in New Jersey, according to the NJ Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program. These are Beachwood Beach West, Windward Beach in Brick Township, and Reese Ave in Lavallette Borough.
“When it rains, beaches get closed in New Jersey because of high nutrients and bacteria. There are three beaches closed in New Jersey, and six more have high levels of bacteria that should be closed as a precaution. These beaches get closed because of DEP’s failure to deal with stormwater runoff and to protect our bays and oceans from pollution. Beaches on bays like Windward Beach and Beachwood especially get high levels of pollutants. We need to fix how we deal with chronic pollution, runoff from fertilizers and septics, and old leaky sewer pipes,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Every time it rains, it pours sewage and runoff. Sprawl and overdevelopment is directly killing our coast, but the State of NJ doesn’t even want to test for the problems, let alone fix them.”
Six beaches in New Jersey that have unsafe levels of Enterobacteria, according to the testing data from DEP. These include 19th St and 40th St in Sea Isle City, 76th St in Avalon, Hollywood Beach in Wildwood, Grant Beach in Cape May, and Richmond Ave in Cape May. However, none of these beaches have been closed for swimming.
“New Jersey needs to do more to protect water quality at our beaches. There are six beaches that should be closed for precautionary purposes, but they are still opened. Many beaches go untested and are left open when they should be closed putting people at risk. Half our beaches do not get tested and the ones that do only get tested on Monday. So if it rains on Friday people could be swimming in polluted water not knowing until testing is done. That needs to be changed. It takes days in New Jersey to get test results yet there is technology out there that will get results in a few hours, which is what we should have. There are tests for pathogens like E. Coli and Enterococci that have results within an hour, yet we’re waiting days for test results,” said Tittel. “By not testing enough and not using the best technology we put people at risk and could chase away our tourism putting our economy at risk as well.”
According to a recent beach report, 73 of 22 beaches (32.88%) in New Jersey tested potentially unsafe for at least one day in 2019. Three counties had beaches that had potentially unsafe water on 5% of the days that sampling took place. These include Cape May County, Ocean County, and Monmouth County, all with 5%. Cape May had 69 beaches test for unsafe water in 2019, 60 beaches in Ocean, and 45 in Monmouth County. In Atlantic County, 56 beaches, or 1%, tested unsafe in 2019.
“Too many beaches get closed because of pollution and runoff, which not only can affect public health but hurts our tourism. We must put together a real cleanup plan, especially for stormwater to protect swimmers and the Jersey Shore. We are not doing enough proper testing and we also are allowing overdevelopment to impact our water quality,” said Jeff Tittel. “We need state and federal help to fix our problems. Congressman Pallone has a Safe Beaches Act in the House that would set national water quality standards and provide funding for testing. Now, New Jersey needs to do more to protect our waters from non-point and nutrient pollution.”
Raw and partially treated sewage is an ecological and public health disaster. Raw sewage is an extreme health hazard containing all kinds of pathogens including everything from E-coli to salmonella to Enterococci, even meningitis. Direct contact with this sewage water can lead to serious health problems from earaches to digestive problems or worse. With floodwaters going into towns, homes, or basements this could be a serious health concern.
“New Jersey is one of the most vulnerable states to climate impacts. We’re the second-fastest warming state in the nation and we’re third for having the most properties at risk for flooding. Unless New Jersey acts, one day we will not have the Shore we love. As temperatures rise and water infrastructure gets older, we’ll see more closed beaches. Warmer temperatures mean more algae blooms and lower oxygen levels, which can create dead zones. We’ll also see more algal blooms closing our lakes and affecting our bays as climate impacts increase,” said Jeff Tittel. “The state needs to take action now on dealing with septic and stormwater management and strengthening standards that limit fertilizer, pollution, and more. We also need more funding to restore wetlands and natural systems, and to retrofit stormwater systems in existing developments.”
Beaches in Brick Township have been closed due to jellyfish overpopulation and beaches in Brielle, Spring Lake and Lake Como are closed when it rains. There have been numerous fish kills in the Raritan Bay within the last decade. Brown tide outbreaks are occurring along the northern coast. Dissolved oxygen levels are dropping due to high levels of nutrients from stormwater, resulting in algae blooms. New Jersey already has 22 lakes with high levels of harmful algal blooms this summer. It will only get worse as summers get warmer.
“New Jersey needs to create a comprehensive approach to the shore that includes mitigation of climate change, adaptation for sea-level rise, and restoration of natural systems. We need to be updating our water infrastructure, fixing old leaky sewer pipes, and stormwater runoff. We also should be buying out properties in flood-prone areas, and rebuilding in a more sustainable manner including pulling back from the shore where we can,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We need real action from the administration to protect our bays and coast. Without real action, the Jersey Shore that belongs to all of us will keep being closed.