Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER - Ocean County officials reassured visitors and residents this week that water quality monitoring at area public beaches will continue despite rumors to the contrary.
"Tourism in Ocean County is a key economic engine bringing in $4.7 billion," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to tourism. "Our 44 miles of ocean beaches and the numerous bay and river beaches are a integral part of what keeps bringing people back to Ocean County year-after-year.
"I want to assure our visitors and residents that this County is committed to making certain swimming areas are safe and water quality is monitored and will continue to be monitored every week during this swimming season and future seasons," he said
Vicari said he has been reading and hearing statements to the contrary that funding from the federal government for water quality testing is in jeopardy.
"Ocean County will continue to do what it takes to monitor water quality for the thousands upon thousands of people who enjoy our beaches," Vicari said. "Health and public safety is of the utmost importance to this Board of Freeholders and we have made a commitment to continue this program."
Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Health Department, said the Health Department spends about $90,000 annually on the water monitoring program.
"The Ocean County Health Department hires college interns during the summer months to collect the water samples for testing," Little said.
The Ocean County Health Department, from mid-May through Labor Day, monitors the water quality at public bathing beaches throughout Ocean County. The 52 sites, including ocean, bay, river, lake, and creek beaches are tested every week.
Samples are taken at salt water beaches and also fresh water areas and are tested for bacteria. If a sample exceeds the standard, the beach is re-sampled immediately and the town notified. If the re-sample is within the standard, the beach may remain open but if it exceeds the standard, the owners of the beach area are notified and the beach is closed immediately. Re-sampling continues daily until an acceptable level is obtained.
Vicari said the samples are analyzed at the Ocean County Utilities Authority.
"This program works in partnership with several County agencies," Little said. "The beach water monitoring program allows beachgoers peace of mind when swimming at local beaches."
The Ocean County Health Department posts water quality reports and beach closures on its website at www.ochd.org and offers a hotline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for up to the minute reports which can be reached by calling 732-341-9700, ext. 7776 or at 1-800-342-9738, ext. 7776.
Little said that often following a heavy rain inland beaches are sometimes closed for brief periods due to high bacteria counts.
However, he said ocean beach closures due to high bacteria counts in Ocean County are rare.
"We experience problems only when there are problems caused by the Newark Bay and the Raritan Bay outfall systems which combine sewage and stormwater in the same pipes," Little said.
Vicari said Ocean County has been a guardian of its waterways for decades and it has made a significant investment in keeping the waterways clean.
"That investment stems back decades to the creation of the Ocean County Utilities Authority in 1976, which brought a halt to discharging sewage into the bay and implemented a state of the art treatment system in order to protect the environment," said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the OCUA. "We have never stopped investing in protecting the environment."