Barnegat Light Bay Beach Closings Examined

Barnegat Light — No further closures due to water quality have been reported at the Barnegat Light bay bathing beach at 25th Street since the bathing area was closed twice in a week at the end of July, both after rainstorms.

But the water there will be studied further in “source tracking” by a state program, said a health department official.

The latest closing on Tuesday, July 30, was based on results from the regular weekly testing the previous day. Counts of the “indicator bacteria” enterococci were 180 colonies per 100 milliliters, which exceeded the standard of 104 colonies, said Dan Krupinski, health officer with the Long Beach Island Health Department.

The closure the week before, on Tuesday, July 23, was based on counts of 370 colonies, Krupinski said. The bay beach remained closed all day July 23 and into Wednesday, July 24, before being reopened. Windward Beach, a river beach in Brick Township, was the only other closed beach in Ocean County the same day.

Asked whether runoff from rainstorms was the definite culprit, Krupinski said, “we’re not entirely sure, and I would say it is a factor, but we’re trying to do some further analysis with the state.”

Incidentally, a quick way for the public to watch daily for bathing beach alerts is at the state Department of Environmental Protection website njbeaches.com. The site contains an updated map of monitored beaches, as well as links to sample results and other information.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection administers the New Jersey Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program. From mid-May to mid-September, local and county health departments, such as the Long Beach Island Health Department, take samples of recreational beach water quality.

Beaches are closed if two consecutive samples collected at a bathing beach exceed the water quality standard. Beach closings remain in effect until subsequent daily sampling indicates bacteria levels are again below the standard.

The New Jersey State Sanitary Code’s water quality standard for bathing beaches is determined by the concentration of the indicator bacteria, enterococci. The standard requires that the concentration of bacteria not exceed 104 colonies of enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of sample.

“An exceedance of the standard may indicate a pollutant impact to bathing waters,” said the DEP website.

“It’s a snapshot in time,” Krupinski said of each test. “Water quality is constantly changing based on winds, tides, rainfall. It’s a very dynamic environment.”

The bay bathing beach at 25th Street in Barnegat Light is one of 20 beaches tested on Long Beach Island, 14 of which are ocean beaches.

The samples are analyzed at a laboratory of the Ocean County Utilities Authority, which was already equipped to test wastewater.

This is not the first time in past years the bay beach water in Barnegat Light has tested over the sanitary limit after a rainstorm. However, health department officials have not pinpointed runoff as a cause specifically.

“It (sampling) doesn’t always track rain, but it can be a factor,” Krupinski said.

Krupinski called the site “a challenging spot.” “It’s very shallow; and there is, which is a good thing, a lot of wildlife activity that could be a factor. Whether the cause is wildlife in nature or human in nature, figuring that out would give us the dynamics” of the problem, he said.

Asked to clarify what he meant by a “human” factor, he said, “our sanitary system is below ground, so I don’t think it’s related to that, but we have to analyze.”

The source tracking that would be performed through DEP programs would determine “if there could be anything that could be done to alleviate this condition,” Krupinski said.

Barnegat Light Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, who heads the beaches and parks committee and lives near the bay bathing beach, spoke about an apparent connection between closures and runoff after rain deluges.

“It’s primarily because of all the rain that we have had and everything that’s in everybody’s yard and on the street, and the people who haven’t picked up after their dog, that washes into the bay and pollutes it.

“Dog waste doesn’t have to be right on the edge of the bay. Every street and everybody’s yard eventually drains into one of the storm sewers and the storm sewers drain into the bay.”

The bay beach is well used and is guarded by a lifeguard every day that it is open, through Labor Day.

— Maria Scandale

Reposted from The Sandpaper