N.J. Sierra Club says beach closings remain an issue

TRENTON – The N.J. Sierra Club argues that N.J. beaches have not been as clean as the administration has said.

The Sierra Club said in a release that there have been 160 beach closings – ocean and bays – this year, up from 109. This is in contrast, the Sierra Club said, with a statement Gov. Christie made on Sept. 2 at Point Pleasant,  when he was encouraging people to go back to the beaches in the aftermath of the hurricane. As the Labor Day holiday weekend loomed, the governor sought to reassure beachgoers that water quality was perfect.

Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said that the total of 160 comes from adding up weekly totals of water quality reports on the web site of the Department of Environmental Protection for the year.

However, DEP differs with the Sierra Club’s reading of the numbers. DEP stated that there were 111 beach closings: 87 ocean-related and 24 bay-related.

And DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the monitoring period covered by those 111 instances lasted roughly from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And DEP also stated that not all of the closings are for high bacteria counts. Some are due to events such as overflowing manholes.

But regardless of the actual numbers or the time period under consideration, the Sierra Club’s point, according to Tittel, is that the beaches are not as pristine as the state has claimed.

“Many of our favorite spots along the Jersey Shore had beach closings sometimes for bacteria, sometimes for jellyfish, or other problems,’’ Tittel said in a release. “Some of our favorite spots like Barnegat Bay have seen a real decline in water quality.’’

In addition, the Sierra Club said the state’s testing system is deficient. Tittel said the beaches are tested once a week, but should be tested more often.  In addition, he said, the state should transition to the type of testing the Environmental Protection Agency uses, which yields results in six hours as opposed to two days.

The DEP reported that such testing is being used on a trial basis in Toms River.

N.J. Sierra Club says beach closings remain an issue