(Toms River) – Although many beaches are closed due to the restrictions mandated by COVID-19 social distancing measures, the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) is testing all the county’s public recreational bathing beaches through the Coastal Cooperative Monitoring Program (CCMP).
“Getting outdoors and enjoying our beautiful beaches is one of the few limited activities our residents can enjoy during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director, Joseph H. Vicari, Liaison to the Division of Business Development and Tourism. “Whether your favorite county recreational water spot is currently open or closed for swimming we still want to ensure people have a clean and safe environment to swim in.”
The OCHD urges residents to check the website of the town before going to the beach. Most municipalities are keeping beaches open for residents to walk, jog or swim while maintaining social distancing. Residents are still prohibited from sunbathing, sitting in chairs, organized sports and group gatherings.
“We’re still uncertain what the future holds but we want to be prepared and have the beaches ready for people to enjoy,” said Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. Regenye also stated that the CCMP provides a quality control mechanism for Ocean County’s coastal waters that are vital to tourism, ecology, species habitat and our robust fishing industry.
The OCHD Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program is funded through a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection grant that started back in 1974. It remains one of the nation’s longest running and most comprehensive beach testing programs all at no cost to the health department.
“The Ocean County Health Department places a high premium on water quality in Ocean County,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “The OCHD will once again monitor most of Ocean County’s ocean, bay, river and lake beaches for water quality every week at 68 public bathing beaches from mid-May through Labor Day 2020.”
Each week the OCHD tests water samples from the county’s salt and freshwater swimming beaches. The water is tested for two types of bacteria – enterococcus and E.coli. If the results come back with higher than acceptable levels, the water is immediately retested and the town notified. After the second high reading, the beach is closed and tested daily until bacteria levels return to normal. As for the COVID-19 virus being transmitted through water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there is no evidence showing anyone has gotten sick through drinking water, recreational water or wastewater.
Beach closures are infrequent but can occur after a heavy rainfall. Water runoff washes animal waste, lawn care products and other bacteria into the water. Everyone can pitch in to help make a difference to keep our waterways and beaches clean by picking up after our pets and not throwing trash or cigarette butts onto the streets. This waste eventually empties into lakes, rivers and the bay and contributes to our beach closings.
Help protect your health while swimming at the beach by following these simple steps:
The Ocean County Health Department posts water quality reports for every beach we monitor on our website at www.ochd.org. The OCHD also offers a hotline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for up to the minute reports which can be obtained by calling 732-341-9700 ext. 7776 or at 1-800-342-9738, ext. 7776.
For more information regarding the OCHD Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program, please visit www.ochd.org or call 732-341-9700 ext. 7685. For information regarding COVID-19 and water transmission visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html. Follow the Health Department on Twitter@OCpublichealth or like us on Facebook.