Bacteria was hazardous at 73 NJ beaches in 2019, new report says
Bacteria levels in the water at more than 70 New Jersey beaches prompted advisories against swimming on at least one day in 2019, according to a report released Thursday.
The “Safe for Swimming” report from Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center examined test samples that exceeded the fecal indicator bacteria levels considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Two bayside beaches in Ocean County — Beachwood Beach West and Barnegat Light Bay Beach — each reported nine days of potentially unsafe swimming, based on the EPA’s “Beach Action Value,” associated with an estimated illness rate of 32 out of every 1,000 swimmers.
Other beaches found potentially unsafe for swimming at least twice in 2019 included beaches in Brick, Harvey Cedars (Bay Front), Sea Girt, Wildwood, Surf City, Belmar, Long Branch, Somers Point, Seaside Park, Upper Township, Highlands Borough, Neptune, North Wildwood, Sea Bright, Sea Isle City, Wildwood Crest and Cape May.
Testing was conducted at both ocean and bay beaches for a total of 222 spots, according to Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley.
Polluted runoff from roads and parking lots, overflowing or failing sewer systems, and farms are common sources of contamination that can put swimmers’ health at risk and lead authorities to close beaches or issue health advisories.
According to the report, swimmers in U.S. oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds suffer from an estimated 57 million cases each year of recreational waterborne illness, a majority of which go unreported.
“The Jersey Shore’s ocean water quality isn't perfect, but it has come a long, long way – vastly improving since the late 1980s when hundreds of beaches were closed for weeks on end,” Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf said in a written release.
Zipf added that Clean Ocean Action has worked with people at the federal, state, and local levels to “successfully identify and stop sources of what we call 'poo-llution' into our coastal waterways.”
One way for concerned residents to do their part is to always clean up any pet’s waste and dispose of it properly, to cut down on the issue of run-off, O’Malley said.
The “Safe for Swimming” report recommends major investments to prevent sewage overflows and run-off pollution.
It was outlined a day before Congress was set to vote Friday on a major spending bill that includes an additional $11 billion for water infrastructure through the EPA.