2020 beach report: Bay beaches were most impacted by bacteria pollution, frequent closures

All beaches are open heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, but a report issued by a New Jersey environmental group shows problem spots in some areas after looking at data gathered from tests done in 2020.

News 12 Staff

Jul 2, 2021, 11:41 AM

Updated 1,026 days ago

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All beaches are open heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, but a report issued by a New Jersey environmental group shows problem spots in some areas after looking at data gathered from tests done in 2020.
The report from Environment New Jersey found most issues are on bay side beaches, including high bacteria levels and frequent closures. 
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, as well as local health departments, often test water samples from beaches such as Fifth Avenue Beach in Seaside Park.
Last summer, the beach was closed for 12 days because of unsafe swimming conditions. The report cited several reasons why bay beaches are more vulnerable to these types of closures and action levels.  
“We try to create a report each year that's valuable to citizens to the opening of the beaches,” says Britta Forsberg, executive director of Save Barnegat Bay.
The beach had bacteria levels higher than acceptable standards 47% of the days when testing took place. It was the highest level of action recorded in the state.
“The idea is to live as close to the water as you can afford, so a lot of those surfaces have become hardened and when a rain comes to fall and finds its way through sandy soil back down to the aquifers, it no longer does that,” says Forsberg. “That raindrop falls into a hard surface like black top or a roof and runs down to our rivers."
A storm water pump installed after Superstorm Sandy is also to blame for the issues at the beach, environmental experts say. People who use the beach and fish in the bay say awareness is key, not just in Seaside Park but in the entire Barnegat Bay basin. 
“It's been such a long time since we've had this problem unfortunately, but I think it's great to counterbalance it with natural means to clean the water,” says Coleen Hoehe, of Toms River. "Maybe we can do it downriver a little bit more too to Toms River. Not a bad idea.”
The town of Seaside Park is creating a natural oyster reef just offshore. The goal is to develop more plant life and more aquatic life, which will help clean the water.


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