How syringes ending up in NewJersy beaches

With thousands of tourists headed to the Jersey shore for the last weekend of summer, the discovery of medical waste on the beach is not the type of publicity one South Jersey resort town needed this week. "A lot of people have had questions about it who've booked places for this weekend and beyond. I talked to a guy who rented a home on 29th Street for the middle two weeks of September, bringing his whole family here. And he said his wife was thinking of doing a cancellation," said Scott Wahl, a spokesman for the borough of Avalon. Wahl said he told the man, as he's told others, that only 10 percent of Avalon's beachfront was affected when 100 to 200 syringes, along with gauze and other medical waste, washed up over the weekend — causing part of the beach to be closed until Wednesday.

Wahl insisted that the town would be fine for Labor Day weekend, but that it also felt victimized. "This was something that Avalon did not bring on to itself. It could have happened on any beach anywhere," Wahl said. The wash-up of the waste, which is being investigated by the state Attorney General's Office, brings back bad memories from the 1980s, when thousands of beach-going days were lost because of waste washing ashore. The situation sparked a ban on trash dumping off the New Jersey coast. "That was the nightmare that you forgot, and here it's back again," said Diane Wieland, Cape May County's director of tourism. Wieland reported "cautious optimism" that there would be strong finish to a summer tourism season that businesses have described as above average. The waste washing up in Avalon, she said, was an isolated incident, unlike the '80s when waste was a problem up and down the coast. Conscious of the upcoming holiday, shore towns were being extra vigilant. On Thursday, two syringes were discovered on beaches in Ocean City, 15 miles north of Avalon, and part of the beachfront near the resort's southern end was closed to swimming. The Cape May County Health Department said the items are not the same type of waste that washed up in Avalon and that the incidents appear to be unrelated.

Farther up the coast in Berkeley, police were searching the beach after a syringe was found there. "I think everyone's awareness has been heightened since the Avalon incident," said Ocean City Business Administrator Jim Rutala. The state Attorney General's Office was trying to trace serial numbers on some items that washed up in Avalon, and was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for dumping the waste.

Kari Martin of the Clean Ocean Action environmental group appreciated that the state and local governments were taking the situation so seriously. "The incident in Avalon may be a good test of the regulations and programs and laws in place to track down medical waste to its source. Hopefully, there will be swift action," Martin said. Source: Associated Press/MSN.

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