Monday, August 15, 2011

Clean Beaches, Healthy Swimmers

Clean Ocean Action’s notes on healthy summer swimming on the Shore

Recently, news outlets have been reporting on the adequacy and timeliness of beach water quality monitoring – the vital service funded by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to close beaches if unsafe levels of bacterial contamination are detected. Read one such story here.

Basically, the way the program works is that NJ County and State water scientists head to the beaches every Monday morning and take a water sample.  Testing on that sample takes up to 24 hours.  If the sample shows that there is too much bacteria in the water, two things happen: first, an advisory is issued at the beach that warns people of the issue, and second, another sample of water is taken.

After the second sample is collected, which is generally Tuesday afternoon, the DEP closes the beach (again, up to 24 hours later) and takes daily (or more) samples until the bacteria level falls back into compliance.

The EPA and the DEP are working on a 3-hour test method (instead of 24 hours) in order to get advisories and closures to swimmers as quickly as possible.  Clean Ocean Action is working with our NJ Congressmen and Senators to get a law passed in Congress to mandate that this quick-test method be implemented nation-wide, and that there is enough funding to keep our beachgoers  safe. 

In some of the most egregious cases, the DEP and the counties will work to track the source of the bacteria.  Sometimes, however, the source is well-known: rainfall overtaxes our aging infrastructure and sewage leaks from pipes, stormwater systems, and back estuaries. 

Last year, due to an unusually dry summer locally, New Jersey’s shores were the second most bacteria-free beaches in the nation – behind only New Hampshire (with its whopping 13 miles of beaches). 

This year, there have been a few instances of beach closures, mainly in Ocean and Monmouth County.  If you want to track these closures, and see first-hand the test results for your favorite beach, click here:

Monmouth County (by day), (by week)
Ocean County (by week)
Atlantic County (by week)
Cape May County (by week)

If you’re in a rush to get to the beach and don’t have the internet, give 1 (800) 648-SAND a call and the same information (on which beaches, if any, are closed) will be on the automated machine you hear…

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