TOMS RIVER — Beachgoers became concerned on Thursday when a substance described by News 12 New Jersey as "black rocks and pebbles" that could crumble easily began to appear on the beach in the Ortley Beach section of Toms River as a beach replenishment program got underway.

Toms River councilwoman Maria Maruca told Jersey Shore Online she spoke to township engineer Robert Chankalian who thought it could be residue from a 1965 boardwalk fire in Ortley Beach.

Steve Rochette, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers' Philadelphia District, told New Jersey 101.5 it appears the dredging project hit a layer of peat in the offshore burrow area.

"Peat is a naturally occurring material and is typically a combination of ancient soil and vegetative materials. Though undesirable and a nuisance in a beachfill operation, they are sometimes encountered during the dredging process,"

Rochette said the peat is common along the entire New Jersey coatsline. It was first noticed during this project on Thursday when a darker material began to be pumped onto the beach. The township raked the beach and got rid of a majority of the peat, according to Rochette.

"USACE and NJDEP will work closely with Weeks Marine to ensure inclusion of these materials in the beachfill are kept at the absolute minimum, but occasionally these materials may be present in the beachfill, but present no danger to the environment or public.

Rochette said the USACE has successfully pumped more than 2 million cubic yards of sand onto the beaches of Mantoloking and Brick Township as part of the project.

"The project, once fully completed, will cover approximately 14 miles of coastline along the Barnegat Peninsula and will reduce the risk of storm damages for the communities of Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Brick Township, Toms River Township, Lavallette, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, and Berkeley Township."

Township spokeswoman Stacy Proebstle said the beaches are all open in Ortley Beach.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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