BELMAR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – It’s not summer yet, but a Jersey Shore beach could end up being closed for the season because of sewage leaking into the water.
The state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed human waste is leaking into the river from the city’s sewage system.
“It’s really a health hazard and really got to get this thing taken care,” said John Dempsey, vice president of the Shark River Cleanup Coalition.
The DEP says high rainfall contributes to sewage overflows.
“When the sewage gets out of the collection system, it gets into the storm water system, and there’s a discharge pipe at the end of that bulkhead,” said Richard Ambrosio, another member of the Coalition.
Bill Sciarappa, an environmental professor at Rutgers, says levels of pollution are always present but it keeps getting worse, creating a harmful living environmental for wildlife and humans – including bacterial infections in the eyes, ears and throat, and viral infections of hepatitis.
Locals say fixing the problem should be a priority, especially in a town that relies on summer tourism to support the economy.
Ed Kirschenbaum, the boro’s business administrator agrees but says it’s not just a Belmar issue. Neptune, Avon and Wall Township sit along the river as well.
“All of our infrastructures are breaking down,” said Kirschenbaum. “We are going to look at it. Listen, that body of water is very valuable to the area and we want to make sure people are safe.”
He said it will take state and federal money to pay for the expensive infrastructure upgrades and the boro is looking into grants for the project.
Belmar has taken steps to replace some of the sanitary lines, patch cracks and do other remediation, but still some pipes leak “like Swiss cheese,” as described by the Shark River advocates.
For now, the L street beach will be closed indefinitely.