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Shoreline water quality testing results have NJ environmentalists calling for action

As summer approaches, New Jerseyans are surely starting to make their way to the shore. Each year from mid-May to mid-September, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) oversees the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program (CCMP) through which local health departments conduct weekly testing along the entire coastline to make sure the water quality safe for human swimming.

The samples are tested for a type of bacteria known as Enterococci, a bacterium found in animal and human waste that is an indicator of poor water quality. The allowable limit is 104 Enterococci per 100 mL. Pursuant the to CCMP, the NJDEP issues an advisory for any beach that exceeds the allowable limits for bacteria levels and will close a beach if two consecutive samples exceed the allowable limits. [1] More often than not, advisories do not lead to closures. Sources of the elevation in bacteria levels are hard to pinpoint but are generally attributable to an increase in stormwater runoff from new development, overflowing or leaking septic systems, and runoff from farms. All of these issues are only predicted to magnify as the climate continues to warm and, consequently, the intensity and frequency of rainstorms increase. [2]

Environmentalists argue that in order to protect human health and the environment, as well as the state’s tourism industry, New Jersey must make swift and large updates to our water infrastructure to minimize the amount of bacteria that is allowed to flow into our waterways and ultimately our ocean. Environmentalists are calling for both state and federal funding to achieve the updates to the state’s water infrastructures that these groups believe will help mitigate the beach closings at the Jersey shore.

You can read more about the CCMP and see an active list of advisories and closures here: https://njbeaches.org/

Other sources:

https://whyy.org/articles/annual-n-j-beach-water-quality-monitoring-program-gets-underway/

https://www.insidernj.com/press-release/sierra-club-3-beaches-closed-6-w-high-bacteria-nj-needs-better-job-protect-coastal-waters/

https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/07/bacteria-are-fouling-the-water-off-njs-beaches-advocates-warn-its-from-leaking-septic-systems-farms-and-more/

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