Jersey Beaches Update
With seven of New Jersey's beaches having received recognition for maintaining the cleanest water in the nation, the state's beaches have come a long way from a coastline once mocked for having needles and dirty diapers wash up on the shores.
"What we like to call the 'bad old days' going into the mid eighties…where we did have closed beaches and garbage and medical waste washing up on our beaches," said John Weber, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Surf Rider Foundation.
The Natural Resources Defense Council listed five Cape May County beaches, 1 Atlantic County beach, and 1 in Ocean County beach.
Weber said federal bans on dumping and beach testing regulations largely contributed to improvements in water quality.
While New Jersey often received a bad reputation for closing beaches due to poor water quality, Weber noted that prior to the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, which required all beaches to be tested for bacteria, many states had no testing on record.
"You have states like Oregon saying 'we never closed a beach because of bad water quality,' well guess what, it's because they never tested their water quality," Weber said.
Additionally, the act protected state's like New Jersey, which saw waste and pollution come over from neighboring states like New York.
He noted water quality is also largely dependent on rainfall and while the results from the NRDC's list was good for New Jersey, he was quick to point out rainfall amounts from the prior year could also affect beach closings.
One of the things Weber is most optimistic for, the EPA's plan to raise the threshold for bacteria on beach closings.
"In essence that's a good thing," Weber said. "The interesting thing is a year or two from now, how are we doing? Do we still have pretty good water quality or do we have a lot more beach closings."