A source of bacterial contamination that has been infiltrating the Shark River for years, resulting in a high level of e. coli at various spots, including near Memorial Park beach in Neptune City, has now been tracked down and repaired.
After a grassroots movement initiated by the Shark River Cleanup Coalition two leaking municipal sewer lines were discovered which were spilling sewage into a stormwater discharge pipe. The coalition has been doing water sampling for bacteria levels in the area since 2005 and continued to send the high level bacteria results to Neptune City seeking action.
Through a cooperative effort by local and state officials the two leaking municipal sewer lines were recently discovered.
“It has been a real pleasure to work with the DEP, NJDOT and Monmouth County on this project to preserve our natural resource,” said Neptune City Mayor Robert Brown. “This is proof how you can make great progress on such an important project when we all have the same goal.”
The high bacteria counts by Memorial Park have been an ongoing concern of the Shark River Cleanup Coalition, particularly because people and pets continue to use the river despite “No Swimming” signs. Over the past eight months, the coalition had been taking water samples from an outfall pipe on the corner of Steiner and Boston Roads, and shared results that showed excessively high levels of e coli at that source. The limit for Enterococci for bathing is 104 CFU/100 ml. A Sample taken on 9/28/2016 showed e.coli levels at 780 CFU/100 ml.
Coalition member Bill Sciarappa met with Neptune City Mayor Brown and Monmouth County Board of Health supervisor Dave Sorensen to determine if the outfall pipe was the source of the problem. According to Sorensen, Monmouth county stopped sampling that beach two years ago, but they will most likely start again this summer.
Brown reached out to Sen. Jen Beck for help, and state Department of Transportation and state Deprtment of Environmental Protection personnel used dye tests and cameras to track the exact source of the pollution to two leaking municipal sewer lines.
Neptune also played a big part in finding this leak through their use of the special camera devices and trucks, according to Jim Manning of Neptune.
The pipe has now been repaired.
The DEP and its partners will continue their effort to track down other sources of bacteria being discharged into the basin, which also may be due to sewage pipe leaks. On the SRCC facebook page Save Shark River, member Charles Sylvester said, “Perhaps a complete survey of all of the sanitary sewers in the towns that surround the river is in order. There are some old systems out there, that with age just break down and deteriorate. Infiltration is bound to happen and all of it will end up in the river.”
Sorenson added “The real champions are Jennifer Beck to get the DOT to finally help in this project. NJDOT employee Paul Craddock took up the task with an attitude that failure was not an option. NJDEP offered lab services since Monmouth county closed the lab in 2008. While I am not proud that it took so long to fix the problem , I am excited that it is fixed and there is a renewed interest in the degradation of water quality due to failing aging infrastructure.”