For those New Jerseyans who remember dark brown ocean water and needles washing up on the beach, the idea of the Garden State ranking second in the nation in terms of water quality may come as a shock. But that’s exactly how the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) rated New Jersey’s beaches in 2010.
Although 2010 was considered a particularly bad year in terms of water quality nationwide, due to oil spills in the Gulf, New Jersey ranked second to only New Hampshire, with its tiny beach area, in water quality — beating out not only New York, California and Delaware, but also Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Florida among many others.
The NRDC credited a dry summer season for some of the relatively pristine beaches, since much of New Jersey’s water quality problem is due to stormwater runoff that floods the ocean with sewage and landfill debris. However, the organization noted that the 19-year-old Floatable Actions Plan, a multiagency response system that reacts to discharges into the New York/New Jersey harbor, as well as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Clean Shores Program, is responsible for preventing thousands of tons of floating debris from reaching New Jersey’s beaches. The state is quick to respond to bacterial pollution, closing beaches when necessary.