Officials say the unsightly material found along the shoreline on an Ocean County beach Thursday is harmless.
As part of a 14-mile beach fill and dune construction project along the northern Ocean County coast, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began dredging and pumping sand in the Ortley Beach section of Toms River on Thursday.
Beachgoers immediately began to notice black material washing ashore, causing widespread social media speculation of potential danger and the source of the material, with some suspecting dredged up wood from an old boardwalk fire in adjacent Seaside Heights.
But the results of an Army Corps investigation released Friday indicate that the substance is a peat, a naturally occurring and harmless material that is typically a combination of ancient soil and vegetative material.
“Though undesirable and a nuisance in a beach fill operation, they are sometimes encountered during the dredging process,” the statement said, adding that all areas to be dredged are “rigorously sampled” prior to project commencement.
By Friday, the peat is mostly gone after being raked by Toms River work crews, and dredging operations are ongoing, according to the statement.
The impacted beaches were never closed.
“The project team will continue to monitor the material being pumped onto the beach as always,” the statement said.