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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Pa. Dentist Indicted for Dumping Medical Waste off Avalon Beach

 

By Herald Staff

TRENTON — Attorney General Anne Milgram announced Tuesday, Nov. 18 that Pennsylvania dentist Thomas W. McFarland Jr. was indicted by a state grand jury on charges that he dumped the needles and other medical-type waste that washed up in Avalon during the last week of August, causing the borough to close its beaches five times.
The Division of Criminal Justice obtained an indictment Nov. 18 charging McFarland, 59, of Wynnewood, Pa., with unlawful discharge of a pollutant and unlawful disposal of regulated medical waste, both third-degree crimes. The indictment is the result of an intensive investigation by the Division’s Environmental Crimes Bureau, the Avalon Police Department and the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office which commenced with the discovery of the waste and quickly led to charges against McFarland.
“By dumping medical waste into the waters near Avalon, this defendant forced the borough to close its beaches five times, preventing summer visitors from enjoying one of our state’s most precious resources, our Jersey Shore,” said Attorney General Milgram.
“This indictment is a step forward in the prosecution of this crime. It reinforces our message that, working with the Department of Environmental Protection, we will keep New Jersey’s beaches clean and safe through vigorous enforcement of our laws.”
McFarland, who owns a house in the Avalon Manor section of Middle Township, allegedly took his small motor boat into Townsend Inlet at the north end of Avalon on Aug. 22 and dumped a bag of waste from his dental practice in Wynnewood, Pa.
Beginning on Saturday, Aug. 23, dental waste was found washed up along a stretch of beach at the north end of Avalon between 9th Street and 24th Street. The waste included approximately 260 “Accuject” dental-type needles, 180 cotton swabs, a number of blue and white plastic capsules used to hold dental filling material, and other items. Officials in Avalon alerted the state Department of Environmental Protection, which notified the Environmental Crimes Bureau.
As investigators from the cooperating agencies, led by the Environmental Crimes Bureau, worked to identify the source of the dental waste, the Attorney General offered a $10,000 reward on Aug. 27 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.
Certain information obtained in the first days of the investigation pointed to McFarland’s practice as a potential source of the waste. Avalon officials recovered a wrapped dental drill bit bearing a lot number. Detectives from the Environmental Crimes Bureau contacted the manufacturer and learned that McFarland’s practice was one of a small number of practices in the Middle Atlantic States that purchased such drill bits from the lot in question.
Detectives also determined that McFarland received promotional merchandise from the Accuject manufacturer at a time when they were distributing needles bearing the same lot numbers as those that washed up in Avalon.
On Sept. 2, McFarland went to the Avalon Police Department and admitted dumping the dental waste. After searching his beach house, Boston Whaler boat and SUV in New Jersey, investigators obtained a search warrant for his dental office in Pennsylvania and executed it on Sept. 4. They discovered evidence corroborating McFarland’s statement that the waste came from his practice, including drill bits and Accuject needles bearing the same lot numbers as those found in Avalon.
McFarland was charged at that time by warrant complaint and released without bail.
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Ed Bonanno presented the case to the state grand jury for the Environmental Crimes Bureau.
Each of the charges contained in the indictment carries a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. In addition, a fine of up to $75,000 can be imposed for the charge of unlawful discharge of a pollutant, and a fine of up to $50,000 can be imposed for the medical waste charge.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Cape May County, where McFarland will be order to appear at a later date to answer the charges. A copy of the indictment is posted with this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
Attorney General Milgram credited the following investigators: From the Division of Criminal Justice Environmental Crimes Bureau, the individuals who led the investigation were Supervising Deputy Attorney General Ed Bonanno, Lt. Jeffrey Gross and Detectives Steven Ogulin, Stephen Politowski and Dawn Ryan. From the Avalon Police Department, Chief David Dean, Detective Ben Geary and the entire department. From the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, Chief James Rybicki, Lt. Lynn Frame and Detective Matthew Leusner. In Pennsylvania, from the Lower Merion Township Police Department, Detective Charles Craig and Patrolman Stieber. And from the Montgomery County, Pa., District Attorney’s Office, Detective Mike Gilbert.

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