Two New Jersey towns close beaches

August 29, 2008 4:19:15 PM PDT
Two Cape May County shore towns banned swimming on all their beaches Friday after more medical waste washed up.Medical debris continued to pose problems for the start of Labor Day weekend along some Cape May County beaches.

The town of Avalon allowed swimmers back into the ocean at some of its beaches on Friday afternoon, after closing all of its beaches in the morning because six syringes were found. An additional sweep turned up nothing.

Ocean City closed all its beaches for part of the day after five needles washed up, but reopened half of them by the late afternoon.

Earlier in the week, nearly 200 syringes washed up in Avalon, forcing the town to close some of its beaches throughout the week.

On Thursday, Ocean City banned swimming on part of its beach after six syringes were found on the sand.

State officials on Friday were tracking serial numbers from the Avalon syringes, and were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for dumping the waste.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection used a helicopter and boat to survey the coastline.

Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi said the syringes washing up in Avalon and Ocean City in recent days were much more deteriorated than the ones that washed up in Avalon last weekend. The earlier syringes had unrusted needles and legible labels attached to them.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the first batch that we found was deliberately set and the batch we found today seems to be similar to what's washing up in Ocean City and one or two other towns," he said. "It looks like it's been in the water for quite a while. It's different material, totally different."

Environmental activists say the discovery of syringes in Avalon is one of the worst single cases in years of medical waste washing up on the shore. In the 1980s, thousands of beach-going days were lost because of waste washing ashore, and that discovery sparked a ban on trash dumping off the New Jersey coast.

Thousands of visitors are expected to travel to the Jersey shore for the holiday weekend.

The problems in Avalon and Ocean City had other nearby towns nervously watching the water.

In Sea Isle City, Beach Patrol Capt. Renny Steele told The Press of Atlantic City that he was holding his breath as east winds were blowing in off the ocean and bringing possible debris with them.

"Some of the merchants are depending on this to make or break them," Steele said. "Everybody is nervous. I hope they find out who's doing the dumping and they take action against them."

In Strathmere, between Ocean City and Avalon, Beach Patrol Lt.

Joe LaRosa told The Press that two syringes came ashore, but that wasn't enough to close the beach.

"Everything is normal. People are on the beach and in the water," LaRosa said.

Elsewhere along the New Jersey coast, beach operators were keeping their fingers crossed.

"Knock on wood, everything is great here," said Marilou Halvorsen, a spokeswoman for Jenkinson's Boardwalk, which owns and operates a beach in Point Pleasant Beach.

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