Syringes Wash Up, Shut Down Local Beaches

July 29, 2018
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By Chris Rotolo

Syringes, like this one found during a Clean Ocean Action beach sweep July 20 on Sandy Hook’s Horseshoe Cove, and other debris caused temporary beach closures along the Jersey Shore. Courtesy Emma Wulfhorst

SANDY HOOK – Monmouth County beaches, including those at Sandy Hook and Long Branch, were at least partially closed Thursday, July 19 and Friday, July 20 due to floating garbage and reports of syringes, needles, plastic and other trash washing up on shore.

According to Clean Ocean Action executive director Cindy Zipf, the garbage wash-up was the result of a rainstorm that ripped through the metropolitan area, flooding sewer systems in major northern New Jersey cities as well as Manhattan.

“It’s called ‘combined sewer overflow washout,’ which means every commode – for however many millions of people – every toilet, washing machine and shower, all that human sewage goes rushing into the sewer system. Then you combine that with all the street filth and garbage juice on the ground level and you have a real problem on your hands.”

Zipf said once the sewer system washed out into the northern rivers and eventually into the lower bay, the tide carried the garbage into New Jersey coastal waters. When the wind shifted, local beachcombers started seeing the debris wash up on the shore.

Though the sight of syringes and needles on the sand was unsettling and dangerous, Zipf said the visible garbage doesn’t compare to the amount of trash and waste that remained at sea.

“It’s certainly bad for beachgoers and bad for our coastal communities but, in a way, if there is a silver lining to this, it’s that the wash-up gave people a visual of where their garbage can end up,” Zipf said. “A lot of this garbage goes into the open ocean and remains unseen. And it stays out there as part of the ecosystem forever.”

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Zipf said that, though this situation was disturbing, it used to be the norm at New Jersey beaches, speaking to the incremental improvements society has made to be environmentally conscious.

“We used to have many, many beaches closed due to garbage wash-ups, so we’re getting better,” Zipf said. “But our water quality is still very much dependent upon the weather and that is not acceptable. And for those who were not aware, this was a wake-up call.”

This article was first published in the July 26-Aug. 2, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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