On one of the first days of the busy summer season, Long Beach Island officials have been instructed by the health department to keep swimmers out of the water along most of the beach due to medical waste.
The ocean waters are closed from the northern border of Beach Haven -- not including the town of Beach Haven -- up to Barnegat Light, said Long Beach Island Health Director Tim Hilferty.
Long Beach Island is the most visited stretch of sand along the Jersey Shore.
Hilferty said the needles were likely coming from people flushing diabetes needles down toilets in New York and northern New Jersey.
Heavy rains last week overflowed the sewer systems in New York Harbor, and "this stuff comes down the coast and the northeast wind blows it ashore," he said.
In Harvey Cedars, Mayor John Oldham told NBC 4 New York that he received the call from the Long Beach Island Health Department shortly before noon.
“We pulled people to the west side of the high tide line” to allow visitors to stay on the beach, said Oldham. Lifeguards were ensuring the beachgoers were going nowhere near where needles could have washed ashore from the surf.
Hilferty said he hopes to reassess the situation between the high tides Saturday night and early Sunday morning, and determine if the beaches can be fully opened Sunday.
"This is a devastating start to the beach season," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of the Clean Ocean Action advocacy group. "It's encouraging that local health officials are taking this so seriously. It is a harsh reminder that federal and state cuts to environmental monitoring and track down of pollution sources are a threat to.people and the economy."
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