Medical Waste Washes Up On Beach

June 7, 2012
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By John Burton

SEA BRIGHT – It’s not what local officials would like to see on a sunny summer beach day. And, it’s certainly not something that beachgoers and their children would like to experience, but in recent days visitors have reported medical waste washing up on the borough shoreline.

Borough Councilman C. Read Murphy on Tuesday, June 5, said he was informed that medical waste material has been seen and collected along the length of the borough’s beach. “The whole length of the beach,” he said.

The material found included five to 10 syringes, and other plastic items, Murphy said.

The people who discovered the items called police and the officers then began collecting the items in protective containers, Murphy said.

“I haven’t seen it like this in years,” Murphy said of the waste found in recent days.

According to Police Chief John Sorrentino, while it doesn’t happen a lot, there are instances when this type of material makes its way onto the beach.

“We find syringes occasionally,” Sorrentino said. “It’s an ocean and people will dump.”

Officers collected the items and tried to determine the source. “We have a destruction process to get rid of it so nobody gets hurt,” the chief said.

There were no signs to give officers a clue as to where it came from, Sorrentino said.

Murphy suspected, “It’s got to be the city,” meaning New York, but conceded there wasn’t any direct evidence indicating it.

Murphy’s comment evoked images of more than 30 years ago when such items became all too common on local beaches as facilities regularly dumped refuse into waterways off of New York City’s shores.

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This, Sorrentino said, is “nothing like anywhere near like when I was little.”

Neighboring Gateway Nation­al Recreation Area at Sandy Hook, just north of Sea Bright, hasn’t seen any medical waste on its beaches, on Tues­day said Peter McCarthy, unit coordinator.

What has appeared on Sea Bright’s beaches may be troubling for local officials and beach­goers, but may not be “medical waste,” under the state’s Department of Environ­mental Protection’s definition, said Bob Considine, a department spokesman.

Medical waste, or red bag waste as it is sometimes called, is used in connection with items that can be directly linked to a medical facility, he said.

Syringes can make their way into storm drains when it rains and can find its way onto beaches that way, Considine said.

The DEP would have investigated if local authorities had contacted the department, which in this case didn’t occur, he said.

Considine advised the public to contact police or call the DEP’s hotline, 877-Warn DEP, if they come upon what they believe to be medical waste.

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