Dog Waste Pinpointed for Bay Beach Closure Cause in Barnegat Light

By Maria Scandale | Aug 28, 2019

Barnegat Light — Dog owners will have to behave, so to speak, in order to abate water pollution from dog waste that was found as the cause of high bacteria levels at the Barnegat Light bay bathing beach at 25th Street twice this past summer.

“It is dog waste that has caused the contamination of the bay; that has been determined by the board of health,” reported Dottie Reynolds, chairwoman of the beaches and parks committee on borough council.

“Dogs are not allowed on the bay beach or any of the bathing beaches, particularly the bay bathing beach, but anywhere along the bayfront,” Reynolds said. “The ordinance will be enforced.”

Dan Krupinski, health officer with the Long Beach Island Health Department, said last week that dog waste was pinpointed as the source by “antibiotic resistance testing” that was done by the state.

“Domesticated animals have a certain profile of what antibiotics they are resistant to, so it can be used as a marker for the source,” Krupinski explained. Domesticated animals are prescribed certain antibiotics specific to that general species.

The testing was done by state agencies after repeated closures of the bay beach. “When we have the bacterial levels that we’ve been having (see below), we wanted to get a better understanding of what’s impacting the water quality so in some ways we can mitigate those impacts,” Krupinski said.

There have been no recent closures of the bathing beach, after good results of latest tests on Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 under the state’s Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The New Jersey State Sanitary Code’s water quality standard for bathing beaches is determined by the concentration of the indicator bacterium enterococci. The standard requires that the concentration of bacteria not exceed 104 colonies of enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of sample.

Two closures in a week were made at the end of July, both after rainstorms. On Tuesday, July 30, enterococci was 180 colonies per 100 milliliters. The closure the week before, on Tuesday, July 23, was based on counts of 370 colonies per 100 ml., Krupinski said. Both closures were about a day in duration before further samples tested safe.

“Mitigating the impacts,” as Krupinski said, will mean mitigating dog waste.

“Word to the wise in any of those recreational bathing areas, we ask the public that it’s not only curbing your dog, but really keeping your animals away from those areas, because any residual can wash into those waterways, and collectively, the amounts can be significant,” he said.

More specifically in Barnegat Light, three borough ordinances relating to dogs on the beach and not picking up after your dog’s waste will be enforced, borough officials said Aug. 27.

Bacteria from dog waste getting into the bay points to dog owners not picking up dog waste or not fully picking it up, officials said this past week.

“It’s actually violating several ordinances – dogs are not allowed on the beaches during the season; also, dogs are not allowed off leash, and there is an ordinance saying you must pick up after your dog.” The latter two ordinances apply year ’round.

“There is the dog park that is available so people would have a place where they can let their dogs run free,” Reynolds pointed out. (Property owners can register once per year at borough hall on East Seventh Street to use the dog park, which is located on West 10th Street. Out-of-town visitors pay a $30 annual fee when they register to get a gate key to the park.)

On another front, a rainstorm Monday night, Aug. 19 (after the weekly water sampling), washed out sand at the 25th Street bay beach. That has been replenished with new sand, Reynolds noted.

Rainstorms this summer that have been heavier than usual have contributed to the temporary closures, officials said. Reynolds said it makes a difference to pick up dog waste not only at the bay, but also on any street and lawn.

“It definitely happens after a heavy rain when all of the streets and grounds are washed into the bay,” she said. “Anywhere in town where you have water draining into the storm sewers, the storm sewers drain into the bay.”

Reynolds said she admired the work that the health department has done with the state to zero in on the cause of the problem “that has been going on for years, on and off, so we can do something about it.”

Officials said that next year, more signage may be put up to remind the public.

At the August borough council meeting, one Central Avenue resident called the condition of the water quality of the bay beach “a big black eye” during the summer of 2019. Statewide media reported the closures, and media station WHYY called the condition “a plague” for the town, in an online story’s headline.

“It’s embarrassing,” said the resident, John Richardson, “when I get calls from my buddies in North Jersey saying what’s going on there? And the way they have it in the paper, they think it’s the whole beach.”

“It’s a good thing so we can understand what the source is and we can go about resolving it instead of it being a more complex wildlife or ecological problem,” Krupinski said after the test results were in.

— Maria Scandale

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