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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 26, 2004

Contact: Elaine Makatura
(609) 292-2994

DEP KEEPS AN EYE ON NEW JERSEY BEACHES

(04/59) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Commissioner Joanna Dunn Samson announced DEP's annual Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program is now under way and will continue through Sept. 6. During the summer, DEP and local environmental health agencies routinely monitor recreational beach water quality at ocean and bay stations along the New Jersey coast.

"Summertime is a perfect time to enjoy New Jersey's famous shore. As millions of residents already know, the best vacations are those spent 'down the shore.' If you aren't lucky enough to live here, we invite you to visit our beautiful beaches and find out why the Jersey shore is one of the best-loved places in the world," Samson said.

Under the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program, DEP and local health agencies assess beach water quality by collecting and analyzing samples each week from 186 ocean and 139 bay monitoring stations.

As part of the monitoring program, the DEP performs aerial surveillance of New Jersey's coast, nearshore coastal waters and the Hudson-Raritan estuaries six days a week. The program is administered by the DEP, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and local environmental health agencies.

Supported by federal funding, the monitoring program also receives $200,000 annually from sales of the popular "Shore to Please" motor vehicle license plates.

Earlier this year, New Jersey demonstrated Governor James E. McGreevey's commitment to cleaner water and a healthier ocean by adopting comprehensive stormwater regulations that represent the nation's strongest water-quality standards.

This summer, New Jersey is using a new bacterial indicator to test the quality of New Jersey's marine waters. The switch to enterococcus from fecal coliform became effective in April, as mandated by the BEACH Act of 2000. The law required New Jersey and other states with coastal recreational beaches to adopt revised ocean water-quality standards.

The revised standard (104 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water) is based on scientific studies that showed enterococci are best suited for predicting the presence of pathogens that can cause illness. Because enterococci are more persistent in the environment than fecal coliform, low enterococci counts signify cleaner water.

The DEP and local environmental agencies use coastal monitoring information to determine the water quality of ocean and bay recreational beaches. Local health and enforcement agencies may close beaches at any time to protect the public's health and safety.

"Protecting water quality and public health and ensuring public access to New Jersey's beaches are among the DEP's highest priorities," Samson said.

In a May 20 ruling, the New Jersey Appellate Division of the Superior Court upheld the DEP's decision to protect the public's right to access beach areas. The ruling determined that Lower Township (Cape May County) residents have the right to walk on sand owned by a private beach club to gain access to the ocean. The justices in this case also authorized DEP to determine appropriate fees for beach access at the site.

Further, the ruling affirmed the Public Trust Doctrine, which provides that public lands, waters, and living resources are held in trust by the government for the benefit of its citizens. As owners of the state's natural resources, citizens have the right of access to these waters and lands, and polluters and developers cannot legally deny access either through environmental degradation or by asserting private property rights.

The public can get the latest, most accurate information on beach water quality by calling (800) 648-SAND or by visiting njbeaches.org

 

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