Lawmakers renew bid to hike ocean dumping fines

September 13, 2009 9:06:59 AM PDT
Recent reports of trash and medical waste washing up and fouling New Jersey beaches have spurred two state lawmakers to renew their efforts to boost fines for illegal ocean dumping. The measure sponsored by Assemblymen Nelson T. Albano and Matthew W. Milam, both Democrats from Cape May Court House, would double the $50,000 per day fine allowable under the state's clean water law. Their renewed push comes after several syringes washed up along parts of the Jersey Shore earlier this month. Officials say the items appear to have come from household trash and may have been churned up by recent coastal storms.

The Assembly passed the bill (A-3271) by a 79-0 vote in March and sent it to the Senate, where the Budget and Appropriations Committee gave its approval in June. However, the measure has not yet been considered by the full Senate, and a hearing on the plan has not been scheduled.

"We all grew tired of this a long time ago and the time is past due for those who pollute our beaches to pay severely," Albano said, noting that state penalties for water pollution haven't been updated since 1990, while those for illegal medical waste handling haven't been updated since 1997.

"The real cost of beach pollution is immeasurable," Albano added. "It includes not only the time and money it takes to clean the beaches, but also the lost revenue for the businesses that rely on pristine beaches and the continued strong reputation of the Jersey Shore. Our shore businesses need this enhanced protection."

Albano and Milam began crafting the measure last summer, after medical syringes washed ashore in Avalon, forcing beach closings the week leading up to Labor Day weekend. Syringes also washed ashore in other nearby communities, with more than 200 picked up overall.

New Jersey has 127 miles of bathing beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, which comprise a large part of its $35 billion tourism industry.

"Even in the best of times, the small businesses that rely on shore tourism cannot absorb the hit caused by irresponsible behavior," Milam said. "But as we all know, these aren't the best of times and our shore businesses and tourists need to know that those who foul our beaches will pay dearly, not only for the economic damage they cause, but for the threat to public health and safety. This bill, quite simply, is what our shore economy deserves."


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