I remember back in the 80’s when occasionally a barge out of New York would dump some garbage off the coast of New Jersey and the beaches would be littered with debris and then closed until all of the hazardous materials or waste could be cleaned up or would wash back out to sea.
And as a long time resident of Ocean County, NJ I can also remember how the Toms River Chemical Company AKA Ciba-Geigy Corp., built and operated a 10 mile pipeline from Toms River to Ortley Beach which they used to dump toxic chemical wastes into the ocean for over 25 years.
All of this was of course investigated by various state and federal regulatory and legislative agencies and after exhaustive (and expensive) study it was eventually revealed that the private companies… and the government agencies… knew exactly what was going on from the get go.
So it comes as no surprise but with also a bit of skepticism when I read today that “local and state governments have announced that ocean and beach water quality tests this winter and spring have shown good results, with few exceptions”…despite the fact that various contractors have had to remove more than 40,000 cubic yards of debris from bays and other waterways so far. (That’s more than 2,600 dump trucks holding 15 cubic yards apiece)
Also more than 70 vessels and vehicles have been removed from waterways, and over 5.1 billion gallons of either partially treated or untreated sewage was carried into the bays and oceans, streams and rivers of NJ by Hurricane Sandy…and that’s according to a Princeton based research group…and that’s not even including the fertilizers and chemicals and who-knows-what-all…plus entire homes and small communities, that were carried into our lagoons and waterways also.
And of course no environmental report would be a good report without the caveat that the long-term impact of things like raw sewage, fertilizer and chemicals (and most of whatever was in the basements of every home on the barrier islands), that washed into the water during Sandy… is unclear.
But according to the DEP, last week all ocean beaches passed water quality tests. However, along with that good news the DEP also added that debris may still be found in the ocean and bays and people who spot it should immediately contact a lifeguard and that it would always be a good idea to have a heightened sense of awareness when swimming this season at the Jersey Shore
So after all is said and done it is summertime, so don’t be shy. Come and enjoy the sun and the fun and the boardwalks and the beaches. Just tread carefully, keep your eyes open when entering the surf, and trust your own senses…and just because we are all older and wiser now and perhaps a bit more jaded… always remember to take everything you hear from a government agency… with a grain of salt water.