Doug O’Malley, Field Director; Beaches Report Statement: 6/29/11
Thank you to Clean Ocean Action for their advocacy to actually get testing that will let beach-goers know if the water is healthy to swim in. Thank you to Surfrider for their work and thank you to our grassroots canvassers. I want to get a chance to briefly talk why our beaches are continuing to see a steady rate of pollution.
“Polluted water from overdevelopment is the invisible root of Shore pollution – it remains the largest source of beach closures. While we can’t control rain storms, we can control development and aging infrastructure. The state – and Shore counties – need to finally implement plans that will actually protect our environmentally sensitive lands.”
While New Jersey was one of the driest states last summer, our closings were still nearly entirely trigged by stormwater run-off – and a majority just by the threat of rain. Stormwater remains the top threat for beach closings. And our bay beaches remain at the top of the closure list.
All beach-goers know that a thunderstorm will wash out a day. But not enough people know that after the clouds clear, the pollution that has been funneled into our coastal and bay waters makes swimming the last thing you want to do.
This development binge to hit the Shore far exceeds the state average. According to Rutgers, NJ’s four coastal counties, (Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May) accounted for over 28% of the state’s growth earlier last decade. Ocean Co. took top prize with over 10,000 acres, and Monmouth was a close second with 9,000. That trend only accelerated throughout the decade. The more impervious cover, the more stormwater created which flushes pollution onto our coast. The Barnegat Bay watershed now reaches up to 33% impervious cover.
This should be the time that Congress is helping us to strengthen the Clean Water Act and help us to repair our infrastructure. Instead, they’re working to weaken it. From supporting stand-alone legislation (HR 2018) that will weaken enforcement of water quality standards and loosen restrictions on discharges of dredge material to adding amendments to budget bills to strip the Clean Water Act authority over seasonal waterways, Congress is rowing the wrong way. We don’t need rollbacks from Congress – we need help fixing our aging wastewater infrastructure.
The first rule of a crisis is to stop digging the hole deeper, and that’s what the state’s Water Quality Management Plan can literally do. The cheapest sewer line to repair is the one that you don’t build. We can’t build sewers and expand development into environmentally sensitive lands, and not expect to produce more polluted run-off. That’s why the EPA granted funding to help finish the job, and why they’re looking over DEP’s shoulder.
What happens upland and upstream in a watershed is critical to how much polluted run-off ends up on our beaches. With the adoption of the Water Quality Management Plan in 2008, the clock started to get plans in place. And now after two long extensions, the clock has once again expired for counties.
It is critical to get these plans right and to put them into action.
The plans for Monmouth and Ocean Counties should protect thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive lands as outlined, but the attempt by the DEP to place 800 acres in Holmdel back into sewer line coverage is an inauspicious signal.
While not intuitive, what we build upstream can impact how much polluted run-off ends up on our Shore beaches. That’s why the implementation of these plans will be a critical test for Gov. Christie’s DEP because they are our best defense for long-term water quality.
Our beaches at the Shore should not be held hostage by rain clouds. Right now, a rain storm drastically increases the risk of beach closures and water that is unhealthy to swim in.
While we can’t control rain storms, we can control development and aging infrastructure. The DEP – and Shore counties – need to finally implement plans that will actually protect our environmentally sensitive lands.”