Surfrider Takes Stand Over Beachfill Project In New Jersey

Long Branch and Trenton, NJ – 11-18-08 – The Surfrider Foundation, Jersey Shore Chapter will be in federal court on Thursday arguing for a preliminary injunction to stop an Army Corps of Engineers beach project in Long Branch due to concerns that the sand may possibly be contaminated.

“I think most people will be surprised to learn this sand is never tested for any chemical contaminants at all, and it is not tested for fecal bacteria or anything like that,” said Stephanie Rinaldi Chair of the Chapter. “People, especially kids come into close contact with sand on beaches, so we need to know it is clean.”

The borrow area for this beachfill project is several miles off of Sea Bright. The entire area is closed to shellfishing due to fecal coliform levels. Several miles further east was the largest offshore sewage sludge dump site in the country where sewage sludge was dumped for decades.
It was previously believed that fecal bacteria can not survive in a sandy beach environment once exposed to light and air. However, a new study shows that fecal bacteria can indeed survive in such an environment and that it can even thrive therein.

Between the borrow area and the Sludge Dump Site is the Mud Dump, where dredge material from the NY/NJ Harbor was dumped for decades. Occasionally barges full of dredge material dumped their loads “short” placing this material much closer to the borrow area for replenishment. The Army Corps’ own report says there are “patches of rough terrain” on the ocean floor near the borrow area that are probably such barge loads dumped short. Dredge material bound for the Mud Dump was sometimes contaminated with toxins like PCB’s, Dioxin, or other pollutants before it was closed in the late 1990′s.

“All of this concerns us and makes us think the material should be tested,” said Chapter volunteer Brian Lynch. “We are not saying this material is definitely contaminated. We just think it should be tested so we can know it is safe. Look what happened on Long Beach Island. They clearly don’t always know what is in these sand borrow areas. As a result we got World War I munitions pumped onto the beach, closing beaches, and leaving taxpayers with $17 million cleanup bill.”

Surfrider Foundation representatives tried to bring this issue up over a year and a half ago in meetings with the NJ DEP, the Army Corps, and the local Congressman. No one wanted to discuss the issue and none of the agencies agreed that testing was needed. The Chapter then wrote a letter to the Army Corp of Engineers’ headquarters in Washington DC, requesting an updated Environmental Impact Statement, EIS, since the existing EIS for this project was completed in 1989. This letter was signed by nearly every major environmental group in the state but the Army Corps rejected the request. The group then made several FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. None of the information they gathered showed evidence of any testing in the borrow area for such contaminants.

A last request for meetings was denied by the Army Corps and the local Congressman. The Chapter feels they exhausted all avenues to have this material tested, leaving no other option but to bring the issue to a federal judge. The Chapter seeks a full battery of testing before the material is placed on the beach. If the tests show any contamination, the Chapter wants the Army Corps to choose a different borrow area and thoroughly test there as well.

The Surfrider Foundation is being represented in the federal lawsuit by James Sullivan and Michael Hall of McDermott Will & Emery LLP. Because of the public interests at stake, McDermott Will & Emery has agreed to represent the Surfrider Foundation on a pro bono basis. For more information on McDermott Will & Emery, go to www.mwe.com