State of the Beach/State Reports/NJ/Water Quality

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New Jersey Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access84
Water Quality78
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill8-
Shoreline Structures8 2
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas35
Website8-

Water Quality Monitoring Program

BEACH Act
The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) signed into law on October 10, 2000, amends the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), incorporating provisions intended to reduce the risk of illness to users of the Nation's recreational waters. The BEACH Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award program development and implementation grants to eligible States, Territories, Tribes, and local governments to support microbiological testing and monitoring of coastal recreation waters, including the Great Lakes, that are adjacent to beaches or similar points of access used by the public. BEACH Act grants also provide support for development and implementation of programs to notify the public of the potential exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in coastal recreation waters. EPA encourages coastal States and Territories to apply for BEACH Act Grants for Program Implementation (referred to as Implementation Grants) to implement effective and comprehensive coastal recreation water monitoring and public notification programs. CWA section 406(i) authorizes appropriations of up to $30 million per year to develop and implement beach programs. Unfortunately, only about one-third that amount has been authorized each year since the program's inception. For fiscal year 2014, the total fund available for BEACH Act grants was $9.55 million. Funding beyond 2012 has been in jeopardy, since EPA's budget requests for this program in FY2013 and FY2014 were ZERO (money for testing in 2013 and 2014 was ultimately allocated as part of Continuing Resolutions to resolve the Federal Budget impasse) and there was also no money for beach testing in the FY2015 budget. Again, it was restored at the last minute as part of a Continuing Resolution. It is very discouraging to have to fight for this basic funding to protect the public's health at the beach every year. Thankfully, there is a growing movement to provide stable funding. If available, funds are allocated to the states and territories based on a formula which uses three factors that are readily available and verifiable: (1) Length of beach season, (2) miles of beach and (3) number of people that use the beaches. New Jersey was eligible for a $265,000 grant in fiscal year 2014. Federal funding supports only a portion of New Jersey’s beach monitoring and notification program. The state contributes an additional $200,000 to the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program through the sale of the Shore Protection license plates.

Much of the following discussion is taken from NRDC's report Testing the Waters, A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, June 2014. NRDC's report evaluates beach monitoring data relative to EPA's recommended Beach Action Value (BAV). The BAV is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories. The EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions."

NRDC ranked New Jersey 3rd in Beachwater Quality (out of 30 states). 3% of samples exceeded EPA's new BAV standards for designated beach areas in 2013.

New Jersey has approximately 700 public coastal beaches lining 127 miles of Atlantic coast. Coastal water quality monitoring is conducted through the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program (CCMP), which is administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). For 2014, the DEP has revamped its coastal water monitoring website to include real-time mapping and data to make it even easier for the public to follow water quality testing.

Water Quality Challenges and Improvements

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was one of the largest storms ever to hit the northeastern United States. Killing 159 people and causing an estimated $70 billion in damage in eight states, Sandy was the most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season and the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history. New Jersey's coastline was severely damaged by the hurricane: Dunes were destroyed, homes were washed away, and infrastructure was damaged. Floods overwhelmed sewage treatment plants and flushed 10 billion gallons of raw and partially treated sewage (or was it 11 billion gallons?) into New York and New Jersey waterways. In May 2013, the EPA announced it would provide New Jersey with $229 million in grant funds for repairs and sewage treatment improvements. This grant will help defray the estimated $2.7 billion it will take to repair the damage to sewage treatment plants caused by Sandy.

Towns along the New Jersey coast continue to rebuild beaches, dunes, and coastal infrastructure. Preseason water quality sampling did not detect exceedances of the state's swimming and shellfishing standards.

Cleaning Up Beachwater in Monmouth and Ocean Counties

The NJDEP is working with local stakeholders to address elevated levels of fecal indicator bacteria that are discharged to the ocean from Wreck Pond's outfall following rainstorms. Source tracking efforts at Wreck Pond, a tidal pond in Monmouth County, have shown that sources of pollution include stormwater runoff and failing sewage infrastructure in the community surrounding the pond. The towns of Spring Lake and Sea Girt have committed to conducting infrastructure assessments of their entire sanitary and storm sewer systems within the watershed, which includes videoing and GIS/GPSing of these systems. This assessment was scheduled be completed in 2013. The Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring is conducting a 48-hour monitoring plan to capture data for an entire storm event; it is also sampling water quality at the four bathing beaches surrounding the outfall after every rain event during the 2013 beach season. NJDEP recently launched a website that aggregates all research, reports, and analytical data for the watershed and includes an interactive map displaying all analytical data. More Wreck Pond news from 2015 and another update.

In 2012, wet-weather monitoring continued at 10 Ocean County river beaches to determine the effect of rain at those beaches. Dye studies were also conducted to gather additional data. Additionally, the NJDEP partnered with the Ocean County Department of Engineering to map existing sanitary and stormwater infrastructure and outfall locations. In 2012, the NJDEP's Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring investigated a complaint in South Toms River, near Beachwood Beach, and found a community of live-aboard vessels in an upstream marina that were without sanitary connection. The NJDEP, South Toms River Township, and the Ocean County Health Department worked together to relocate the residents and clean up the facility, which included a boat scrapyard.

Identifying the Source of Pollution at Beaches in Beachwood

More than 25% of the water quality samples at Beachwood Beach have exceeded the standard for designated beaches each year since the 2005 swim season, when NRDC began tracking water quality monitoring data. In 2012, the borough of Beachwood began a project working with the Ocean County Health Department and Ocean County Planning Department to track down sources of bacterial pollution. The effort includes sampling water quality at stormwater outfalls, improving mapping of the area’s drainage system, and studying the movement of pollution along the shoreline in various weather conditions. While this study is ongoing, Beachwood has also enhanced its beachwater quality sampling by taking additional samples after rain events and has instituted a policy of closing the beach for 24 hours after any rainfall of more than 0.25 inch over a 12-hour period. The borough and the county intend to use the results of the study to reduce identified pollution sources.

Demonstrating the Rapid Test Method at Bay Beaches

Current approved methods for determining fecal indicator bacteria counts in beachwater depend on growth of cultures in samples and take at least 24 hours to complete. Because of this, swimmers do not know until the next day if the water they swam in was contaminated. Consequently, there is a great deal of interest in technologies that can provide same-day beachwater quality results, and the EPA and NJDEP have been field-testing one of them, the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) rapid test method, since 2007. This rapid method identifies genetic sequences in order to enumerate bacteria.

In 2012, EPA and NJDEP finalized and published results of a rapid beach advisory demonstration project that was conducted at four bay beaches in Ocean County (Windward Beach in Brick Township, Avon Road in Pine Beach Borough, Beachwood Beach in Beachwood Borough, and Anglesea in Ocean Gate Borough). Samples were collected and analyzed using qPCR, and swimming advisories were issued on the basis of the qPCR results. These results were compared with the standard membrane filtration results when they became available the following day. Test results show that the traditional culture method and the rapid test are in agreement 82% of the time. Although the qPCR method can be more labor intensive than conventional monitoring techniques, it assesses beachwater quality much more quickly.

Reducing Trash Wash-Ups on New Jersey's Beaches

Sewer systems in and around the New York/New Jersey Harbor are designed so that excess flows are discharged to harbor waters during periods of wet weather. These excess flows often contain floating debris made up of litter and toilet waste such as hygiene products. When discharged to the New York/New Jersey Harbor Complex, the floating debris collects in slicks that can exit the harbor and wash up on beaches. The multiagency Floatables Action Plan, which has been in place since 1989, involves several means of controlling floating debris, such as helicopter surveillance to locate slicks, skimmer vessels fitted with nets that collect debris, floating booms that trap debris near sewer system discharge points for later collection, and sewer system improvements intended to maximize the ability to retain floating debris. These methods have prevented tons of floating debris from reaching the harbor and New Jersey beaches. In addition, the NJDEP's Clean Shores Program, in which state inmates collect floatable debris from the shorelines of the Hudson, Raritan, and Delaware estuaries and barrier island bays, removes thousands of tons of trash and debris from New Jersey shorelines each year.

Monitoring

Sampling Practices

The sampling season runs from mid-May to mid-September. In addition to regular beachwater monitoring for bacteria concentrations, the NJDEP conducts aerial surveillance of nearshore coastal waters six days a week during the summer and routinely inspects the 17 wastewater treatment facilities that discharge to the ocean.

The NJDEP determines sampling practices, standards, and notification protocols and practices at coastal beaches throughout the state. Samples are taken 12 to 18 inches below the surface in water that is between knee and chest deep. Locations for monitoring stations are selected by local or county health departments and are chosen on the basis of proximity to a potential pollution source. If there is no pollution source nearby, ocean sampling locations are chosen to represent water quality at several nearby beaches. Every recreational bay beach is sampled.

Once an exceedance of bacterial standards is found, daily monitoring is conducted until the beachwater meets standards. States that monitor more frequently after an exceedance is found will tend to have higher percent exceedance rates and lower total closing/advisory days than they would if their sampling frequency did not increase after an exceedance was found.

In addition to fecal coliform and enterococcus, New Jersey monitors for floatable debris and chlorophyll levels that may indicate algal blooms, and samples phytoplankton to determine algae concentrations. Algae samples are collected when remote sensing data indicate an increase in chlorophyll levels in a specific area. If a harmful algal bloom is identified, county and local health officials are notified, closing information is posted on the NJDEP web page and phone line, and local beach managers close beaches as necessary.

Closings and Advisories

Standards and Procedures

New Jersey issues closings when bacteria levels exceed standards. New Jersey's standard for marine beachwater quality is a single-sample maximum for enterococcus of 104 cfu/100 ml. A geometric mean standard is not applied when making beach closing decisions.

If bacteria levels exceed the single-sample standard, the beach is resampled immediately. If the second sample exceeds the standard, the beach is closed. Resampling is conducted in conjunction with a sanitary survey of the beach. County and local health departments may, at their discretion, issue swimming advisories after one exceedance of the bathing standard. In 2011, Monmouth County was the only county to issue swimming advisories when routine monitoring revealed that standards were exceeded. In 2012, advisories were issued in both Monmouth and Ocean Counties when bacteria levels were found to exceed the single-sample standard. These advisories convert to closings if resampling confirms the exceedance.

If high bacteria concentrations are found at an ocean or bay station, sampling is conducted linearly along the beach to determine the extent of the affected area. This "bracket sampling" can result in an extension of a beach closing to contiguous lifeguarded beaches.

Four Monmouth County ocean beaches around the Wreck Pond outfall (Brown South and York Avenue beaches in Spring Lake and The Terrace and Beacon Boulevard beaches in Sea Girt) are automatically closed for 24 hours after the end of all rainfall events that exceed 0.1 inch or cause an increased flow in storm drains, and are closed for 48 hours from the end of all rainfalls greater than 2.8 inches within a 24-hour period. Lifeguards prohibit swimming near any parts of these beaches where the stormwater plume is observed to be mixing with water within the swimming area, and lifeguards can close a beach at any time if a plume is observed. Two bay beaches in Monmouth County also have preemptive rainfall standards: L Street Bay Beach in Belmar (more than 0.1 inch in 24 hours) and the Shark River Beach and Yacht Club (more than 1 inch in 24 hours).

Beaches in New Jersey are closed if there is a known sewage spill that is suspected of contaminating beachwater. Health and enforcement agencies in New Jersey can close a beach to protect public health at any time.

Algae samples are collected when remote sensing data indicate an increase in chlorophyll levels in a specific area. If a harmful algal bloom is identified, county and local health officials are notified, closing information is posted on the DEP web page and phone line, and local beach managers close beaches as necessary. There were increased reports of jellyfish on New Jersey beaches in 2011, especially in Barnegat Bay.

The practice of not using the geometric mean standard as a criteria for closing beaches was criticized in an article by Todd B. Bates published in the Asbury Park Press on May 22, 2005. Several beaches, including Brown Avenue ocean beach in Spring Lake and the L Street Beach on the Shark River in Belmar, exceeded the geometric mean standard for the 2004 swim season but were open most of the time. Several other bay beaches, including the Brooklyn Avenue bay beach in Lavallette, Hancock Avenue bay beach in Seaside Heights and West Beach in Beachwood were not closed or only rarely closed in 2004 despite exceeding the geometric mean standard.

In another article by Todd Bates that appeared in the Courier Post on October 8, 2007, several environmentalists and beach users criticized New Jersey's practice of only sampling beaches on Monday (followed by a confirmation sample on Tuesday if the Monday sample exceeds bacteria standards) and of only monitoring beaches during the summer. The critics felt that the state's beach-water monitoring program, once held up as a national model, was not keeping up with the times.

The Ocean Beach Information website provides detailed ocean monitoring results by county:


The New Jersey Ocean Beach Information website also provides a summary of their program results.

NJDEP also has a beach information "hotline" 1-800-648-SAND (Memorial Day to Labor Day only).

Some of the ocean coastal counties in New Jersey also have beach monitoring information on their websites:


DEP's Marine Water Monitoring Program performs water quality surveys for shellfish harvesting areas. New Jersey collects approximately 15,000 water samples each year at over 2,500 sampling locations in the state's bay and ocean waters.

The state has four classifications for shellfish harvest waters:

  • Prohibited
  • Special Restricted -- shellfish harvested in these areas have to be subjected to purification processes before they are consumable,
  • Seasonal Waters -- shellfish harvesting is permissible either from November to April or from January to April, depending on the local activity of people and wildlife and the water quality impacts of seasonal tourists.
  • Approved -- no restrictions on harvesting


Here are Maps of Shellfish Classifications of New Jersey's Coastal Waters

NJDEP reports that:

"New Jersey has a very promising trend with regard to coastal water quality as reflected in the percent of its coastal waters from which shellfish can be harvested. With the most recent changes to the State's regulations on June 2, 2008 almost 90 percent of New Jersey's coastal waters are harvestable for shellfish."


On the other hand, an indication of water quality problems is the disappearance of clams in Barnegat Bay. "Barnegat Bay has lost so much of its clam population, that we may have reached a point of critical mass, where we may not be able to restore it to viable commercial levels," said Gef Flimlin, marine extension agent with the Cooperative Extension Service of Rutgers University, located in the Whiting section of Manchester. Michael Kennish, a research professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University said "There is probably very little commercial clamming going on right now in the bay. The hard clam is in serious trouble."

Water Quality Contacts

New Jersey's Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program
Dave Rosenblatt
Phone: (609) 984-6860
Email: dave.rosenblatt@dep.state.nj.us

Virginia Loftin
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Email: virginia.loftin@dep.state.nj.us

Beach Closures

During the summer of 2013 New Jersey boasted of no beach closures, but not all beaches were tested, especially some bayshore beaches.

NRDC reported:

In 2013, New Jersey reported 492 coastal beaches and beach segments, 288 of which were monitored. New Jersey also has "bracket" beaches that are adjacent to regularly monitored beaches; if high bacteria concentrations are found at a regularly monitored station, sampling is conducted at bracket stations to determine the extent of the affected area.

Of all reported beach monitoring samples, 3% exceeded the Beach Action Value (BAV) of 60 enterococcus bacteria colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml marine or estuarine water in a single sample. NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis. This includes duplicate samples and reported samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.

The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the BAV in New Jersey in 2013 were Berkeley Township at Beachwood Beach West in Ocean County (52%), Neptune Township at Shark River Beach and Yacht in Monmouth County (20%), Berkeley Township at West Beach Avon Road in Ocean County (18%), and Brick Township at Windward Beach in Ocean County (17%).


For a bar chart showing a 5-year water quality trend, see NRDC's report.

Here is information from NJDEP regarding the 2012 swimming season:

The participating health agencies closed 173 ocean and 17 bay beaches in the 2012 summer season, a 61% increase in beach closings over the previous year. The increased number of ocean closings is directly related to a one-day washup of floatable debris, including approximately 50 syringes that closed 12 miles of beaches on Long Beach Island in mid -June. Heavy rains the previous week caused combined sewers in New York (426) and northern New Jersey (180) to discharge, washing trash and debris into the shared waters of the New York Harbor. New Jersey CSOs employ floatable and debris controls such as trash netting; New York does not require such controls. Ocean currents carried this debris south to the beaches of southern Ocean County the following week. After the incident, DEP’s Water Compliance and Enforcement staff conducted inspections of all NJ’s CSO outfalls and all were found to have operational floatable controls.

A Coastal Monitoring Program Report covering the 2012 swimming season (with some discussion and data dating back to 1995) can be found here. This report summarizes the CCMP activities for the 2012 bathing beach season in New Jersey’s marine waters. It is based in part on water quality monitoring that occurred at 181 ocean and 41 bay stations in 2012. Most of these station locations coincided with recreational swimming beaches. Following are excerpts from the report:

"The following pollution incidents received public, DEP, and local health agency attention in 2012, although the incidents did not always require beach closings:

  • On May 31, a 38 foot vessel ran aground on the north jetty of the Barnegat Inlet and sank in approximately 10 feet of water ½ mile off the beach. No beaches were closed due to the incident.
  • On June 1, a 25 foot vessel sank at Leonardo State Marina in Middletown. An estimated 35 gallons of fuel discharged into the bay. No beaches were impacted by the event.
  • On June 16, a major washup of floatable trash and debris, including syringes, occurred at beaches on Long Beach Island. More than 50 syringes were collected by the Long Beach Island Health Department and approximately 12 miles of beaches were closed starting at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon. The debris came in with the first high tide of the day. Public works crews, beach patrol and local beach staff worked through the weekend to mechanically rake beaches where possible and hand rake when necessary. All beaches were reopened Sunday morning. Heavy rains the previous week caused combined sewers in the northern part of the state to overflow. Trash and debris from that event was the likely source of the debris on these beaches.
  • On June 29, a beachgoer was injured after stepping on a syringe on the beach at Brant Beach on Long Beach Island. The beach was surveyed following the incident and no other trash or debris was found. The needle was old and weathered and may have been on the beach from the previous washup.
  • On July 30, 1st Street beach in Ocean City was closed as a precaution due to a sewage overflow from a small public restroom to a nearby storm drain that flows to the ocean. Water samples were collected that afternoon. Bacteria results were well below the standard and the beach reopened the following afternoon.
  • On August 5, the DEP hotline received a report that dead menhaden were washing onto beaches between 2nd and 26th Streets in North Wildwood and Wildwood. Local public works crews removed more than 2 ½ tons of dead fish from the beaches. The fish were very likely dumped from a bait fishing boat. Water quality samples were collected at the affected beaches and no increase in bacteria was found. No beaches were closed.
  • On August 6, 8th and 9th Avenue beaches in Ocean City were closed as a precaution due to a sewage overflow to a storm drain that discharges to the ocean. The overflow was caused by a blockage in a nearby sewer line. The beaches reopened two days later after water quality results were shown to be within the standard.
  • On August 12, the Cape May County Health Department closed 1st Street beach in Ocean City again as a precaution due to another sewage overflow from the same public restroom. Beach closings were extended the following day to Stenton Avenue north of 1st Street and south to 3rd Street pending water quality sample results. All beaches were reopened the following day.
  • On August 20 during the daily coastal observation flight, pink-colored water was observed in the ocean off of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Samples collected during the week confirmed mild bloom concentrations of dinoflagellates, a non-toxic algae, along with heavy concentrations of comb jellies. The colored water persisted for several days. No beaches were closed.
  • On August 22, the DEP hotline received a report of approximately 1,000 dead menhaden washed up on a beach at Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook. Park staff removed the fish and no beaches were closed. The fish were likely from a bait fishing boat dumping event.
  • On August 23, hundreds of dead peanut bunker (juvenile menhaden) were reported in a lagoon in South Toms River. The Ocean County Health Department investigated the incident and found no obvious source of pollution or contamination. It is common for very large schools of peanut bunker to swim into shallow waterways. The large schools then use up all the dissolved oxygen which results in fish kills.
  • On August 27, the Long Beach Island Health Department reported several washups of debris including single syringes in Loveladies, Surf City and Long Beach Township. The washup was consistent with prolonged east and northeast winds that tend to push debris onto beaches. No beaches were closed.
  • On August 29, the Long Beach Island Health Department reported two separate single syringe washups in Harvey Cedars. These were isolated incidents and thought to be part of the washup on the previous weekend. No beaches were closed.
  • On September 5, the Wildwood Police Department reported a 1.5 mile long fish kill in North Wildwood. This was another net dump of a commercial menhaden bait fishing operation. Public works crews removedthe dead fish and no beaches were closed."

Appendix 2 of the report is a list of all the 2012 beach closings, showing the date, location and reason for each episode.

Surfrider Foundation's Jersey Shore Chapter has started an Ocean Illness campaign to document cases where local surfers and swimmers have become ill after surfing or swimming in the ocean. They are collecting data on any and all cases of people getting sick from the ocean. If you believe dirty water made you sick, please fill out their NJ Ocean Illness Form. They will use this information to make New Jersey and local officials aware of this issue and work towards a solution. By sharing this information you'll be helping the Jersey Shore Chapter take the first step in this important campaign.

The environmental group Clean Ocean Action announced a Clean Ocean Zone (COZ) campaign in February 2004 to stop ocean pollution. The COZ will continue to gather support from concerned citizens, organizations and student groups, environmental commissions, and municipalities. In turn, these groups will take actions to support the COZ and help move the campaign forward. These actions range from municipalities and organizations passing "Statements of Support", to citizens distributing and signing "Citizen Action Cards" and petitions in support of the COZ. Next, organizations will prepare documents and support materials to further describe and lay out a blueprint for the action points of the COZ campaign. These materials will be presented to legislators, followed by meetings and briefings to discuss legislative opportunities to codify the Clean Ocean Zone. The COZ will need legislation on the federal and bi-state levels (New York and New Jersey), since the COZ includes pollution issues in state and federal waters.

In July 2006 it was announced that a Clean Ocean Zone bill had been introduced in Congress by Reps. James Saxton and Frank Pallone. The bill would seek permanent protection of the New York/New Jersey bight, which consists of the New Jersey and New York ocean coasts. It would prohibit new ocean dumpsites, discharges of pollutants from old or new sites, and the creation of any nonrenewable energy facility, pipeline, or deepwater port. It also would prevent the extraction of any nonrenewable natural resource for commercial or industrial use, unless it contributes to navigation channels, beach replenishment, flood control, erosion control, or habitat restoration.

Bill 2645 proposing to create a “New Jersey Coastal and Ocean Protection Council” was passed by the New Jersey state legislature and signed into law during the 2007-08 legislative session. A focus of the Council is to address the concept of “ecosystem-based management.” The Bill also mandates extremely broad responsibilities such as considering “any matter relating to the protection, maintenance, and restoration of coastal and ocean resources.”

In June 2013, U.S. EPA released its latest data about beach closings and advisories for the 2012 swimming season. Note that for some states the data is incomplete, making state-to-state or year-to-year comparisons difficult. Here's EPA's BEACH Report for New Jersey's 2012 Swimming Season. EPA no longer publishes this report.

The United States Geological Survey maintains a website, New Jersey Water Science Center. This site is a valuable source of information including current projects, online reports, publications, maps, real-time water conditions, and educational outreach material for teachers and students.

New Jersey Sea Grant (New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium) is a source of information on water quality.

Another source of water quality information is the website of the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute.

Storm Drains and Sewage Outfalls

The New Jersey sewage and storm drain system includes 17 major sewage treatment plants with outfall pipes to the ocean. The New Jersey shore has 150 storm-drain pipes along the ocean beaches and 7,000 storm-drain pipes that discharge into New Jersey bays.[1]

The sewage treatment plant ocean outfalls and their lengths, from north to south, are:

  • Monmouth County Bayshore Outfall Authority (S. Sandy Hook) (2): 4,000 feet
  • N.E. Monmouth Regional (Monmouth Beach): 1,762 feet
  • Long Branch Sewage Authority (Deal): 1,800 feet
  • Township of Ocean Sewage Authority (Seven Presidents Park): 1,920 feet
  • N. Asbury Park: 1,600 feet
  • Neptune Township (Avon/Bradley Beach): 5,800 feet
  • South Monmouth Regional (Belmar/Spring Lake): 4,480 feet
  • Northern Water Pollution Control Authority (Mantaloking): 5,000 feet
  • Central Water Pollution Control Authority (S. Seaside Park): 5,000 feet
  • Southern Water Pollution Control Authority (Ship Bottom Borough): 5,000 feet
  • Atlantic County Utilities Authority (Ventnor City): 8,000 feet
  • Ocean City Regional (S. Ocean City): 6,000 feet
  • Seven Mile Beach/Middle Region (Avalon): 5,530 feet
  • Wildwood/Lower Regional (S. Wildwood) (2): 4,800 feet


In July 2011 EPA released a report Keeping Raw Sewage and Contaminated Stormwater Out of the Public’s Water, to answer commonly asked questions about combined sewer overflows. Many of the sewer systems in New York State and New Jersey and some in Puerto Rico are combined systems that carry sewage from homes and businesses as well as rainwater collected from street drains. When they overflow during heavy rains, the rainwater mixes with sewage and results in raw sewage being directly discharged into water bodies. These discharges are called combined sewer overflows and can pose serious environmental and public health risks. EPA's report explains what Combined Sewer Overflows are, the human health and environmental effects of sewer overflows, the prevalence and location of CSOs in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, and actions that are being implemented and can be taken to address the problem.

An article EPA says end sewage overflow, but N.J. balks at $8B in repairs appeared at NorthJersey.com on September 25, 2011. From the article:

"Jeffrey Gratz, chief of EPA's clean water regulatory branch overseeing New Jersey, said in an interview that unless the state's next set of rules puts municipalities on a schedule to address the problem [combined sewer overflows], EPA will have a "serious issue with it." "I think in general we've got a longer way to go with New Jersey than other states," Gratz said."


An article Troubled water - After 40 years, New Jersey's waters are far from clean appeared in the Asbury Park Press in January 2012. From the article:

"Four decades after the government vowed to clean up and protect New Jersey’s waterways, an effort that has cost billions of dollars since 1972, only one passes all water tests. [...] All other streams, rivers, lakes and coastal waters thoroughly inspected by the state have failed at least one water quality test, an Asbury Park Press investigation found."


An article at NorthJersey.com on January 5, 2013 Staggering cost of repairs allows sewage to foul N.J. waterways estimated that, on average, "More than 23 billion gallons of raw sewage and other pollutants pour into New Jersey’s rivers and bays each year because aging sewer systems are overwhelmed during heavy rains." The article goes on to detail the costs necessary to fix some of the more egregious CSO problems.

An article What to do about New Jersey's multi-billion dollar sewer problem? was published on May 7, 2014. The article discusses the problem of aging sewer infrastructure faced by 21 New Jersey towns as they grapple with trying to eliminate combined sewer overflows. The article includes maps showing the locations of the overflow points and has links to two reports from New Jersey Future. The latest report puts the price tag at more than $2 billion for towns to move away from combined sewer systems. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has estimated it could be even higher — more than $8 billion.

In January 2015, the state issued 25 final permits to improve surface water quality in urban parts of the state by requiring municipalities and wastewater authorities to develop strategies to reduce pollution from combined sewer overflows. The DEP permits require the development of long-term control plans to address 217 combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharge points in the state. Most are located in the New York-New Jersey Harbor region. The new DEP rules call for towns and utilities authorities to employ immediate minimum controls, while allowing them three to five years to work on long term control plans for the upgrade of treatment facilities and the separation of sewage flow from stormwater outfalls.

Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012 caused flooding, equipment failures and massive releases of untreated sewage that extended for weeks after the storm. A NY Times article Sewage Flows After Storm Expose Flaws in System detailed these problems. Workers at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) plant, the fifth largest in the country, had to evacuate as floodwaters surged in and wastewater gushed out. Repairs at the PVSC plant are further complicated by a political struggle over the appointment of commissioners. The Middlesex County Utility Authority plant in Sayreville, N.J., let about 75 million gallons of raw sewage a day flow into Raritan Bay for nearly a week before power was restored. A report Sewage Overflows from Hurricane Sandy (April 2013) summarized the impacts in New Jersey as follows:

  • The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in Newark reported the largest spill of all. During the week after the storm, 840 million gallons of untreated sewage flowed into Newark Bay. It took another two weeks to get most of the treatment up and running, and during that time another 3 billion gallons of partially treated sewage overflowed.
  • Middlesex County reported another 1.1 billions gallons of untreated sewage discharge to local waters, due to complications related to Hurricane Sandy.
  • The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection plans to allocate nearly $1 billion for recovery and repair of facilities, and another $1.7 billion for building resilience into the system.



New Jersey's Stormwater and Nonpoint Source Pollution Website is: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/stormwater/

This site contains useful information for municipalities, businesses and citizens regarding:

  • What is nonpoint source pollution (NPS)?
  • What is stormwater?
  • What can you do to prevent NPS pollution?
  • What can students do to stop NPS?
  • More details on what you can do to prevent NPS
  • Free educational resources on NPS, stormwater and watersheds.
  • Other educational resources available in New Jersey.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's NPS website.


On January 28, 2010, NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, fully approved New Jersey’s Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program (CNPCP). Highlights of the CNPCP are the New Jersey Clean Marina Program, the Stormwater Management Program, a process and program for inspection of on-site sewage disposal systems, and the Wetlands Reserve Program.

A Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) report issued in early 2008 indicates that New Jersey's municipalities are making good progress toward implementing programs designed to reduce the impact of pollutants that are carried into the Garden State's waterways through stormwater runoff. The report indicates that 532 of New Jersey's 559 regulated municipalities, or 95 percent, had adopted stormwater management plans that detail how they will address polluted runoff. A total of 512 municipalities, or 92 percent, had adopted the required stormwater control ordinances that implement the management plans.

In addition to municipalities, New Jersey's municipal stormwater control program regulates all counties as well as many federal, state, and interstate agencies. The report indicates that more than 83,000 tons of street sweepings have been collected, nearly 508,000 sewer catch basins have been inspected and more than 39,000 stormwater outfall pipes have been mapped and inspected in the first three years of the program. In addition, more than 291,000 tons of sediments, trash and debris have been retrieved from storm sewers, preventing these materials from entering the state's waterways. The report also indicates that most municipalities have adopted pet waste, litter, wildlife-feeding and yard waste ordinances. Moreover, 91 percent of municipalities have distributed educational brochures to their residents, and most municipalities have held community outreach programs.

Since the DEP launched the municipal stormwater regulation program in April 2004, the department has conducted 1,347 compliance inspections designed to assist the regulated entities. The DEP has also issued a total of $669,000 in penalties for various breaches of municipal permit conditions, including 48 penalty assessments totaling $524,000 in 2007. The DEP assesses penalties when municipalities or other entities fail to meet certain conditions such as cleaning of catch basins and sweeping of streets, submission of required reports, and adoption of specific ordinances that carry out the aims of the program.

Also check out DEP's Division of Watershed Management. The Division of Watershed Management administers a variety of programs aimed at protecting and restoring water quality, controlling water pollution and ensuring adequate water supplies. They have been quite aggressive in establishing TMDLs to limit the amount of pollutants like fecal coliform bacteria or phosphorous impacting surface water bodies.

For additional information on stormwater and nonpoint pollution, as well as ways to prevent it, visit Clean Water NJ.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Quality's Website provides additional information on their Nonpoint Pollution Control program and stormwater/wastewater discharge permitting. http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dwq/

New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey announced in January 2004 New Jersey's adoption of a package of important measures against polluted runoff. Most importantly, the new regulations will encourage the recharge of rainwater into the ground and prevent most development within a 300 foot buffer of more than 6,000 miles of high quality waterways in the state. As always, the key to the effectiveness of these welcome runoff control measures will be enforcement and public education. More info.

In August 2005 NJDEP announced that they were beginning the process of adopting two sets of amended rules. Nearly 900 miles of additional waterways would be required to have a 300-foot buffer from development under changes proposed to the Surface Water Quality Standards. DEP adopted a tough 300-foot buffer standard in January 2007, but they unfortunately recinded that order in January 2008, again making it easy for developers to justify a 150-foor buffer.

In addition, under amendments to the Water Quality Management Plan, the DEP has proposed rolling back sewer service areas on environmentally sensitive land, and placing wastewater management plans under county jurisdiction. Municipalities would also be required to update stormwater management plans -- 141 towns are without plans and 298 have outdated plans.

Lack of effective controls for septic tanks enables sprawl to consume more than 15,000 acres per year, as New Jersey developers build out. The resultant sprawl contributes to the state’s persistent drought and flooding problems. The DEP sewer rules are mandated by the federal Clean Water Act. The rules establish the framework for water quality planning and wastewater management, and set rules for the location and capacity of sewage treatment plants as well as residential and commercial septic systems that discharge to groundwater. If adopted, these rules would have a direct impact on sprawl and water resources by determining where development is allowed to occur.

In urging DEP to move forward with strong rules, seven environmental organizations went on record in a November 2006 letter to DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson identifying the strengthening of the sewer rules as one of 10 key policy initiatives for the state.

On March 5, 2007, Governor Jon Corzine issued an extension of the Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, water quality management planning rules. This was the second deferral of these rules under Corzine who, on June 19, 2006, had extended the decision deadline until January 31, 2007. The Water Quality Management Planning rules prescribe water quality management policies and procedures to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the surface and ground water resources of the state. A table identifying locations of proposed new provisions and comparing the existing water quality management planning rule with proposed major changes was finally published in the May 21, 2007 New Jersey Register.

In May 2008 NJDEP issued a fact sheet concerning "Buffers on Category One Waters." A 300 foot or Category One (C1) buffer is required by the Stormwater Management (NJAC 7:8) and the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules (FHACA) at NJAC 7:13, for certain activities proposed adjacent to waters designated in the Surface Water Quality Standards (NJAC 7:9B) as C1 or their upstream tributaries in the same sub-watershed (HUC 14). The buffer rules have been criticized by some environmental groups because of the "grandfather clauses" listed at the end of the fact sheet that exempt previously-permitted and pending projects.

A project with $5 million grant funding which was approved in late 2004 was to extend the outfall pipe from Wreck Pond in Spring Lake 300 feet past an existing groin to improve water quality and drainage. Concerns about this project have been expressed by Spring Lake Borough Councilman Walter Kim that the outfall extension may disrupt the flow of sand to the north or may only redirect the plume of pollution to beaches further north. However, a modeling study indicates that the extension should reduce the current probability of effluent in the surf zone from 100% down to about 30%. Not ideal, but evidently the best the state could do given the cost per foot of extension. By early 2006 the outfall pipe had been extended and an initial pond dredging project had been completed. A more extensive dredging effort at Wreck Pond was held up due to state budget concerns, but finally began in November 2011. Read the latest on Wreck Pond studies and remediation. More Wreck Pond updates from 2015.

Another project designed to improve water quality and protect coastal resources is restoration of the Deal Lake flume. Deal Lake, bordering on the Village of Loch Arbour and the City of Asbury Park, has a flume, or culvert, that has deteriorated and clogged with sand, preventing water from channeling between the lake and the ocean. DEP reconstruction plans include removal of 220 feet of the existing flume, construction of 490 feet of culvert flume, and excavation of approximately 600 feet of the existing stone jetty. It is hoped that this project will improve water quality, provide improved public access, and improve herring migration. A contractor for this project was selected in August 2005. Construction was slated to begin in mid-September and take about six months to complete.

The Wreck Pond and Deal Lake projects are two of the projects identified in New Jersey's Coast 2005 initiative, "a comprehensive plan to protect the integrity and economic viability of New Jersey's valuable coastal resources."

A multimillion-dollar project to remove outfall pipes from the Stone Harbor's beachfront will reduce the amount of litter that ends up in the ocean, and improve drainage at the same time, according to borough’s engineering firm. The first phase of the beach outfall elimination project was substantially completed in fall 2010, with further phases planned for 2012 and 2013. The first phase removed five beach outfalls between 101st and 107th Streets and replaced them with a stormwater pipe running under First Avenue to catch the surface water from the street drains. A large storm sewer outfall pipe directs the water into an underground water quality chamber and retention facility located in Chelsea Place between 105th and 106th Streets. The last five beach outfall pipes will be removed between 82nd and 99th Streets. Pipe will be laid under First Avenue with sewer outfall pipes running into the bay at 83nd Street and 97th Street. Underground retention and recharge facilities will be constructed at the beach blocks of these streets.

New Jersey has a Sewage Infrastructure Improvement Program that includes the location of sewage outfalls. The information is collected in coordination with the County Environmental Health Program. The NJDEP has sewage outfall maps and data that can be reviewed at their offices by appointment.

New Jersey suffered a major sewage spill in early March 2003. An 102-inch sewer pipe operated by the Middlesex County Utilities Authority (MCUA) burst on March 2, spilling an estimated 570 million gallons of raw sewage into the Raritan River before the line could be repaired and placed back in service on March 11. The spill forced the state to close shellfish beds covering a 30,000-acre area of Raritan Bay. This spill had the potential to pollute and close not only bay beaches, but also ocean beaches, since Raritan Bay feeds into the ocean at Sandy Hook, a popular surfing area.

The Cape May City Council unanimously rejected a state grant of $5.2 million to treat wastewater and use it to replenish wells. The Council passed a formal resolution in Febraury 2005 rejecting the grant, partly because it only funds two-thirds of the $7.8 million dollar project. The city, which also supplies water to Cape May Point and West Cape May, would be liable for the rest. The resolution said this would result in a significant increase in the cost of water for all three towns.

City Manager Lou Corea said the city would also be liable for annual operating costs of at least $250,000 for a project that would treat sewage effluent to such a level that it could be pumped back into the ground to recharge the Cohansey Aquifer. The city built a $5 million desalination plant several years ago because over-pumping had drawn saltwater into the Cohansey and other underground aquifers. Many of the city wells have already gone bad. The resolution says the grant could be better used to expand the desalination plant.

An accident at the Ocean Township Sewerage Authority in May 2006 sent 36,000 gallons of raw sewage into Poplar Brook and out to sea in Deal, closing beaches for over a week. Two days after the spill, a test from just off the Conover Pavilion produced a reading of 27,000 enterococci per 100 milliliters as compared to the closure standard of 104 enterococci per 100 milliliters.

Septic Systems

New Jersey still allows unregulated septic system developments thanks to the failure of its Department of Environmental Protection to close a loophole on environmental review and DEP permitting of development projects fewer than 50 units. For the past three years, DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell has ignored recommendations from his own staff experts to move forward with rules first proposed by then-Governor Christie Todd Whitman to protect water supplies from the new pollutants and impacts caused by development, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Each year, New Jersey loses between 10,000 and 15,000 acres of its shrinking base of rural, agricultural, and environmentally sensitive lands to development. Because sewer connections do not exist in these outlying areas, septic systems are required. DEP regulates septic systems serving large developments of more than 50 units. However, according to DEP’s own data and Water Quality Inventory Report, it is the small un-permitted commercial and residential developments relying on septic systems that are now the primary cause of new surface and groundwater water quality impairments. These developments create cumulative stresses on water supply and fragment farms, forests, and wildlife habitat.

Clean Marinas

The Coastal Management Office officially launched the New Jersey Clean Marina Program at a kick-off workshop on March 31, 2005. The New Jersey Clean Marina Program is a voluntary program that provides information, guidance, and technical assistance to marina owners, local governments, and recreational boaters regarding best management practices to protect water quality and coastal resources. In December 2005 Silver Cloud Harbor Marina was designated as the first New Jersey Clean Marina. They have successfully implemented safety measures including training employees at docks to ensure proper fueling, properly recycling and storing waste products such as oil and anti-freeze to prevent hazardous dumping, and managing stormwater to reduce pollution. In October 2010 the Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium announced that they had added 11 marinas to the state's Clean Marina program. The number of these facilities certified as using best management practices to protect New Jersey's marine resources now stands at 40.

The official New Jersey Clean Marina Program website is http://www.njcleanmarina.org

Water Quality Contact (Runoff and Outfalls)

Dave Rosenblatt
(609) 984-6860

Debbie Pinto
Office of Local Environmental Management
(609) 292-1305

NJDEP Contacts

Perception of Causes

NJDEP reported the following in their CCMP Summary Report for 2012:

"The vast majority of the closings listed above are precautionary due to concerns of nonpoint pollution transported by stormwater during a rain event. Beach closings due to washups of floatable debris have been fairly uncommon. In 1990, floatable debris was responsible for a total of 10 separate beach closings. In the following 12 years, no closings were due to floatables; however, in 2003, 13 separate closings and in 2007 four closings were due to reported washups of trash and debris. In 2008, a criminal medical waste dumping event was responsible for 120 ocean beach closings. In 2012 approximately 50 syringes along with other floatable debris washed onto beaches on Long Beach Island closing 12 miles of beaches for one day. Bay beaches are rarely affected by washups of floatable debris.

In 2002, the Monmouth County Health Department implemented a precautionary rainfall beach closing procedure which is in effect at beaches with known and identified sources of potential contamination. Precautionary beach closings after significant rainfall at these locations are more protective of public health since there is no need to wait for laboratory results from water quality sampling. The bathing public is protected from exposure to potentially contaminated stormwater by this approach. Since 2002, a total of four ocean beaches and two bay beaches in Monmouth County have been identified as rain provisional beaches, which accounts for the increase in beach closing numbers at ocean and bay beaches.

The ocean beaches of Spring Lake Borough have been particularly affected by the discharge from Wreck Pond during and immediately after rain events. As mentioned above, in 2002, a precautionary beach closing plan was implemented in Spring Lake Borough. It requires that the two beaches north of the Wreck Pond outfall, Brown Avenue and York Avenue, close for a specified time period following a rain event. The bathing areas of these two beaches are automatically closed for 24 hours after the end of all rainfalls greater than 0.1 inch or that cause an increased flow in storm drains; and for 48 hours from the end of all rainfalls greater than 2.8 inches within a 24 hour period. In addition, lifeguards (or staff as designated by Spring Lake Borough) will prohibit swimming near any parts of these beaches where the stormwater plume is observed to be mixing within the swimming area. In 2005, the Terrace beach and in 2007, Beacon Boulevard beach, both beaches in Sea Girt just south of the Wreck Pond outfall, were added to the precautionary beach closing plan.

Intensive source trackdown has identified that sources of pollution to Wreck Pond include stormwater discharges directly to the pond and suspected failing infrastructure in the community surrounding the pond. These factors contribute to the elevated levels of enterococcus bacteria discharged to the ocean during rain events. The Department is moving ahead with steps to alleviate these sources of contamination. In 2006, DEP completed a 300-foot extension to the Wreck Pond ocean discharge outfall pipe in order to carry contaminated stormwater further out into the ocean and reduce the impact to bathing beaches. The total number of beach closings related to bacteria have been lower in the years after 2006, but the total number of beach closings at the four “rain provisional” beaches varies. These rain closing numbers are dependent on the amount of rainfall in any given summer season. DEP, Spring Lake, Sea Girt, the Monmouth County Health Department, the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission and Clean Ocean Action are reevaluating the provisional rainfall closure policy at Wreck Pond. DEP reinstituted wet weather monitoring at the four Wreck Pond beaches during the summer 2012 beach season and has continued sampling in the offseason to gather additional data for this evaluation. DEP will continue wet weather monitoring during the 2013 beach season."


An article Troubled water - After 40 years, New Jersey's waters are far from clean appeared in the Asbury Park Press in January 2012. From the article:

"Four decades after the government vowed to clean up and protect New Jersey’s waterways, an effort that has cost billions of dollars since 1972, only one passes all water tests. [...] All other streams, rivers, lakes and coastal waters thoroughly inspected by the state have failed at least one water quality test, an Asbury Park Press investigation found."


In February 2012 another article in the Asbury Park Press summarized the findings in New Jersey's 2010 list of impaired waterbodies, which showed 2,112 cases where a pollutant is impairing a water body, keeping it from meeting standards for drinking water, swimming and recreation, fishing or other uses.

The federal Clean Water Act mandates that states submit biennial reports to USEPA describing the quality of their waters. The biennial Statewide Water Quality Inventory Report or "305(b) Report" must include the status of principal waters in terms of overall water quality and support of designated uses, as well as strategies to maintain and improve water quality. The 305(b) reports are used by Congress and USEPA to establish program priorities and funding for federal and state water resource management programs. The biennial List of Water Quality Limited Waters or "303(d) List" identifies waters that are not attaining designated uses because they do not meet surface water quality standards despite the implementation of technology-based effluent limits. States must prioritize waters on the 303(d) List of Water Quality Limited Waters for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development and identify those high priority waters for which they anticipate establishing TMDLs in the next two years. The Integrated Report satisfies the reporting and public participation requirements of Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 of the federal Clean Water Act.

The New Jersey Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Reports (Integrated Reports) are intended to provide effective tools for maintaining high quality waters and improving the quality of waters that do not attain their designated uses. The Integrated Reports describe attainment of the designated uses specified in New Jersey's Surface Water Quality Standards (N.J.A.C. 7:9B), which include: aquatic life; recreation; drinking, industrial, and agricultural water supply; fish consumption; and shellfish harvest for consumption.

Public Education

Websites that provide information to the public regarding water quality issues and pollution prevention include:


General Resource Documents and Websites

EPA has compiled several NPS (Nonpoint Source) Outreach Products that are a selection of television, radio, and print products on nonpoint source pollution that have been developed by various agencies and organizations around the country. They are good examples of outreach in the mass media. Also see What You Can Do.

NOAA, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International City/County Management Association and Rhode Island Sea Grant, will be releasing, in August 2009, a first-of-its kind interagency guide that adapts smart growth principles to the unique needs of coastal and waterfront communities. Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities builds on existing smart growth principles to offer 10 coastal and waterfront-specific guidelines that help manage development while balancing environmental, economic, and quality of life issues.

USGS' Great Lakes Beach Science website has a nationwide database that contains greater than 1200 citations for publications directly and indirectly pertaining to recreational water quality intended for access by the general public and scientific community. It is a fully searchable, downloadable bibliography that has been categorized into major study topics.


Footnotes

  1. Scanlan, Phillip M. The Dolphins Are Back. Portland, Oregon: Productivity Press, 1998.



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