UPDATE: The 5th Avenue bay beach reopened around noon today after samples found the bacteria count (40, 10, <10) within acceptable levels (104 colonies per 100 ml of water), according to the Ocean County Health Department.
Swimming at the 5th Avenue Barnegat Bay beach in Seaside Park is prohibited for the second consecutive day, according to an Ocean County Health Department spokeswoman.
The closure is due to the enterococcus bacteria count exceeding acceptable levels, said Leslie Terjesen of the Ocean County Health Department.
According to Terjesen, the standard for the acceptable level of enterococcus, a bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals that can cause urinary tract infections, bacteremia, bacterial endocarditis, diverticulitis, and meningitis, is 104 colonies per 100 ml of water.
The samples taken yesterday indicated levels of 180, 220, and 220.
“If a sample exceeds the standard, the beach is re-sampled immediately. If the re-sample is within the standard the beach is allowed to remain open. If the re-sample exceeds the standard; the owners of the beach area are notified to close the beach to swimming and bathing. The beach will be re-sampled every day until the sample falls under the standard, then the bathing area may re-open,” according to the Ocean County Health Department’s water sampling page.
Terjesen cites Tuesday’s rainfall and subsequent runoff for the elevated bacteria level, adding that an advisory was posted on Tuesday followed by yesterday’s closure.
In New Jersey, bay and ocean swimming is currently prohibited only at the Seaside Park beach, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s njbeaches.org.
Swimming is currently prohibited at Forest Row Avenue in Lacey and Glen Cedar Park in Berkeley, which are both freshwater beaches, the Ocean County Health Department website advises.
The spokeswoman said the Seaside Park closure is not related to the nearby drainage pump station along the bay at 8th Avenue, stating that the water at the station was tested last week and is safe.
After a Seaside Park Public Works Department employee spotted a brown circular plume extending from a shoreline pump station at 8th Avenue and deep into the bay last week (see the drone video here), Save Barnegat Bay, an Ocean County environmental advocacy group, raised public awareness.
On Tuesday, New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Jamie Fox said that the plume, discovered to be comprised of silt, was not sewage or pollution of any kind.
“I need to be crystal clear on this, the water coming from the pump on 8th Avenue was most certainly not sewage,” Fox said. “The Department of Environmental Protection and Ocean County both tested the water and found it safe. The public’s health and safety is always our first concern.”
The DOT is responsible for the Route 35 Reconstruction Project, which includes a massive drainage upgrade inclusive of nine pump stations along the stretch of barrier island from Bay Head to South Seaside Park.
According to a sample taken at the 8th Avenue pump station last Thursday and released on Tuesday, “all bacteria results are very low and well within the recreational bathing standard of 104 CFU/100ml,” adding that the measure of silt and sand “are within normal ranges found in storm water outfall and ambient monitoring samples.”
The drainage system includes 76 manufactured treatment devices, or MTDs, that separate trash, oils, and sediment out of the water before it flows to the bay.
“This is the first time runoff into the bay will be filtered and cleaned, improving the quality of water discharged into the bay,” said DOT spokesman Steve Schapiro
But the “elaborate and expensive drainage system,” says William deCamp, Jr., Save Barnegat Bay founder, “has spectacularly failed, and the consequences for the public and the environment are great.”
Britta Wenzel, Save Barnegat Bay’s executive director, says that the pump stations are running continuously and not just during and after storms, pumping pollution and sediments into the waterbody.
The New Jersey legislature is now looking into Save Barnegat Bay’s concerns and pushing for full DOT transparency.
“We’re drafting a joint communication to the commissioner as we speak asking for a full explanation of the reasons for the plume and what the DOT is doing about it,” State Sen. Bob Smith told ABC News yesterday. “People at a hearing recently also expressed that the pumps into the bay are going constantly on and off, and whether that’s coming from rain or infiltration from the the sandy soil is something we’re going to ask him. We want a thorough detailed response to our questions.”
Read more about last week’s plume, the drainage system, and pump stations here.