SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — For the first time in over 20 years, beachgoers were told not to swim at ocean-side beaches in Seaside Heights on Thursday due to negative water quality tests.
The affected beaches were reopened to swimmers as of 2 p.m. Swimming had not been banned at bay-side beaches, Mayor Anthony Vaz said.
"As a mayor of a community that thrives on tourism, you know, I don’t like it. But I know it’s for protection of people. They can get sick, health issues, rashes," Vaz said.
He said the bacteria found in the water could be due to this week’s heavy rain. Since then, the ocean has been extremely calm.
"There are no waves. It’s like a lake," he said. "That brought in bait fish and by bringing in bait fish, the birds, the seagulls, they go after the bait fish. With that, they do their fecal matter and that goes in."
The county tests the waters everyday. Local health departments and the Department of Environmental Protection closely monitor beach water quality from mid-May to mid-September.
Because of the swimming ban, beach badge fees were waived for the day. Anyone who did show up got a free pass to come back another day this summer.
“This is the first time any of us can remember in more than 20 years that we have had to suspend ocean bathing due to water quality. Perplexingly, the ocean waters have been great the past few years right up to now, so this is a very unusual event that we expect to pass quickly,” Vaz said.
For a list of water quality closures in New Jersey beaches, click here.