Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NJ Beaches: Highlighting NJ 2011 Beach Testing Results

Seventh Avenue Beach in Belmar was the highest
ranked beach in New Jersey by NRDC.

While beach-goers hit the nation’s beaches to beat the heat, a report shows serious public health risks and problems with the health of beach water in New Jersey and across the nation.  NRDC’s 22nd annual report – Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches – analyzes government data on beach water testing results at thousands of beaches from 2011. 

The report confirms that last year, our nation’s beach water continued to suffer from serious contamination – including oil and human and animal waste – and a concerted effort to control future pollution is required.  At the same time, proposed federal and state actions will eviscerate testing programs and leave citizens vulnerable to sewage exposure.

Beach Testing Findings – 2011:   

  • There were 23,481 closing and advisory days at America’s beaches, including 2,344 due to BP oil spill.
  • Water quality at  beaches remained largely steady, with 8 percent of beach water samples nationwide exceeding public health standards in 2011 and 2010, compared to 7 percent in the previous four years.
  •  Most of closing and advisory days nationwide were issued because testing revealed indicator bacteria levels in the water that exceeded health standards  (more than one source reported for some events):
    • 47% were attributed to stormwater runoff
    • 49 % unknown
    • 12% miscellaneous including wildlife
    • 6% were due to sewage spills and overflows 

In New Jersey:
  • New Jersey ranked 4th in the nation (out of 30 states) for cleanest beaches based on number of samples exceeding national standards in 2011 (lowest to highest).
  • 226 ocean and bay beaches were tested
  • 132 closing and advisory days last year, an increase from 109 in 2011.  There was a 29% increase in the number of closings alone.  There would be more if all counties posted advisories for single samples.
  •  Only Monmouth County posted advisories at the beach and DEP posted them online for exceedances.
  • 17% (23) of closing/advisory days last year were due to elevated bacteria levels,
  •  5% (6) were due to advisories issued for a sewage spill or overflowing manhole
  • 79% (103) were preemptive,i.e., without waiting for monitoring results due to rainfall and known problems with bacterial levels.  
  • 3% of samples exceeded the standard, an increase  from 2%  in 2010.  

Pollution in recreational waters nationwide causes a range of waterborne illnesses in swimmers including stomach flu, skin rashes, eye, ear, nose and throat infections, diarrhea, and other serious health problems.  There are areas with persistent pollution that need to be investigated and sources that need to be  cleaned up.

EPA has proposed to cut funding for the entire National Beach Monitoring Program.  Fortunately, Congressional ocean champions, including Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Representative Pallone, have responded and are working to ensure that funds are fully reinstated in the budget.  Our groups strongly support their efforts.   The 2000 Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) needs to be reauthorized.  Since 2000, New Jersey Congressional leaders have sponsored this act.

In NJ, the Department of Health and Senior Services  has responsibility to update the public recreational bathing rules.  However despite efforts and participation by COA and others, changes to improve these rules have not moved forward.  Action by NJDHSS is overdue. 

In New Jersey, there are statewide needs for improved stormwater management and funding to repair old and aging infrastructure.  Polluted run-off from overdevelopment remains the largest source of beach closures. 

How YOU Can Take Action:
  • Thank your Congressional ocean champions, like Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Representative Pallone for working to reinstate beach testing programs funding in the budget!
  • Read the full press release from our press conference today here

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