A bill sponsored by Senators Nia Gill and Paul Sarlo to allow the state to revoke or suspend the license of medical professionals and waste handling companies found guilty of violating the state’s medical waste anti-dumping laws has been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.

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The measure stems from a 2008 incident in which several New Jersey beaches were forced to close before Labor Day weekend after medical waste washed ashore. Approximately 260 syringes, cotton swabs and other medical waste were found in Avalon, Cape May County, leading borough officials to close the beaches numerous times. Thomas McFarland Jr., a Philadelphia dentist who owns a Jersey Shore summer home, was charged with intentionally dumping the waste that caused the Avalon closings. He admitted to taking his small motor boat into an inlet in the borough and dumping a bag of waste from his dental practice in Wynnewood, Pa. McFarland received four years probation and was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to the borough of Avalon.

“Medical waste illegally dumped into our waters or onshore is a hazard that places the health and safety of the public, as well as our environment, at risk," says Gill, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This will provide the state with the means to not only file criminal charges and recoup costs for damages incurred, but also to bar these bad actors from doing business in New Jersey.”

Sarlo explains, “Our state beaches are among our state’s greatest assets, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists from across the country each year. Dumping medical waste in our waterways is an egregious act that threatens the reputation of our state and an industry that supports jobs for New Jersey workers and generates billions of dollars for the economy.”

The bill was approved 79-0 by the Assembly in June. Its sponsors are Matt Milam, Nelson Albano and Lou Greenwald.

Knowingly and purposefully dumping medical waste off our beaches is irresponsible and just plain stupid,” says Milam. “Any doctor that would be so cavalier with the public’s health and safety should automatically forfeit their right to practice in New Jersey.”

Assembly Majority Greenwald says, “If you fine a doctor making a lot of money for beach dumping, he or she can do a mental cost-benefit analysis to see if the fine is enough of an incentive to stop. However, if you take away their license for dumping, you take away their ability to make money, which is a much more effective deterrent.”

“You don’t need a medical degree to know that used needles do not belong in our waterways or on our beaches,” says Albano. “Anyone who fails that simple test of common sense shouldn’t be allowed to practice medicine in our state.”