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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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First District Lawmakers Call for Steeper Dumping Fines

By Herald Staff

TRENTON — After beaches along the Cape May County coast were closed due to medical waste washing ashore during the busy Labor Day weekend, legislators from the 1st District want to toughen penalties for illegal ocean dumpers.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matt Milam (all D) Sept. 2 said they would introduce legislation that would increase the fines for illegal ocean dumping from $50,000 per day to more than $100,000 per day.
According to a press release from the lawmakers, the state’s penalties for water pollution haven’t been updated since 1990, while those for illegal medical waste handling haven’t been updated since 1997.
“New Jersey is on record as having taken a strong stance against ocean dumping, but after 11 years there is a need to toughen our position,” Van Drew said. “Our shore is the lifeblood of New Jersey’s tourism economy. The irresponsible actions of an irresponsible few can have a ripple effect through our already soft economy and must be punished severely.”
Over recent weeks, hundreds of syringes and other medical waste items washed up on beaches in Avalon, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Diamond Beach, Brigantine and Atlantic City forcing beach closures before, during and after the busy holiday weekend.
The lawmakers said that the $50,000-per-day fines allowable under the state’s clean water law look severe, but the effectiveness of the fines has eroded since their enactment in 1990. Had the penalties kept pace with inflation, the trio noted that the fines would be equal to roughly $82,800 in today’s money.
“Polluters need to know that when they foul our beaches, they are going to pay, and pay dearly,” Albano said.
Meanwhile, the state Attorney General continues to investigate the dumping and has posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the medical waste wash-up in Avalon.

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