15 New Jersey beaches reopened after bacteria shutdown

TRENTON, N.J. -- Fifteen beaches in New Jersey that had been closed because of elevated bacteria levels have been reopened.

The state Environmental Protection Department found high levels of bacteria Wednesday and seven beaches in Atlantic City alone were closed. All of the beaches had been reopened by Thursday afternoon.

Environmental officials say heavy rains that result in runoff water containing chemicals and bird droppings is responsible for the spike in bacteria.

Atlantic County public health officer Patricia Diamond tells the Press of Atlantic City (http://bit.ly/2u15YUp ) heavy rainfall on consecutive days puts a burden on the ocean. Diamond adds that bodies of water need a chance to recover.

The state will continue testing to determine when bacteria levels drop.

On Wednesday, Action News was in Beachwood, Ocean County where swimming was off-limits to bathers because of the high bacteria counts in the water.

Matt Csik of the Ocean County Health Dept. said, "Allowing people to access water that we know has bacteria concentrations in it this high would definitely be a threat to public health."

In Pine Beach Borough near Avon Road, where bacteria levels were 10 times the acceptable limit, we found just two people on this closed beach.

Jonathan O'Connor of Pine Beach NJ said, "It's definitely not good. It doesn't sound safe but I had no idea so that's a little alarming. They should have put some sort of sign up to warn people about that."

Hannah Susavage of Quakertown, Pa. said, "Not good at all. I don't want to go in there now, so that sounds dirty and I don't really want to get in."

Water quality is tested every week at over 200 ocean and bay beaches along the coast.

Tourism is big business in New Jersey and safe, clean swimming water is a must.

The Ocean County Health Department does some of that sampling for the state. A beach is closed if two consecutive samples exceed the state standard.

Water tester Colleen Cochran said, "We take in three different locations along the body of water where people will be swimming just to give us a bigger sample size."

"I'm glad that they tested. I hope that they keep testing it because it's important for people to know and have that chance to say I'm not going in that water," Rick Gonzales said.

Officials say this spike in beach closings and advisories is unusual and closed beaches will be reopened as soon as they get the all clear.

For more information, visit NJBeaches.org


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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