The ‘Chocolate tube’: Testing polluted surfing beaches | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

The ‘Chocolate tube’: Testing polluted surfing beaches

Associated Press
1271096_web1_1271096-d043e202cf6a4fbfa009c3e7da157359
AP
This May 30, 2019 photo shows Skye Post, who will be a junior at Monmouth University this fall, taking an ocean water sample near a storm drain outfall pipe on the beach in Long Branch, N.J. University researchers are studying the relationship between heavy rainfall and elevated levels of bacteria from animal waste that gets flushed into storm sewers and out in the ocean at popular surfing beaches at the Jersey shore.
1271096_web1_1271096-2970064724534d2c9d6487682026609f
AP
This May 30, 2019 photo shows an enlarged image of microscopic sea creatures being stuydied in a laboratory at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. University researchers are studying the relationship between heavy rainfall and elevated levels of bacteria from animal waste that gets flushed into storm sewers and out in the ocean at popular surfing beaches at the Jersey shore.
1271096_web1_1271096-25555f5a13d34207a35c4f4616cd5523
AP
This May 30, 2019 photo shows Ariel Zavala, a student at Monmouth University, marking samples in a campus laboratory in West Long Branch, N.J. University researchers are studying the relationship between heavy rainfall and elevated levels of bacteria from animal waste that gets flushed into storm sewers and out in the ocean at popular surfing beaches at the Jersey shore.
1271096_web1_1271096-15afa76740d749138a44840312e147c3
AP
This May 30, 2019 photo shows samples of ocean water are viewed under a device at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. that checks for the presence of fecal bacteria. The squares that are illuminated have tested positive for the bacteria. University researchers are studying the relationship between heavy rainfall and elevated levels of bacteria from animal waste that gets flushed into storm sewers and out in the ocean at popular surfing beaches at the Jersey shore.
1271096_web1_1271096-aa5c49ed4db3483b88913d756bf884d8
AP
This May 30, 2019 photo shows Skye Post, who will be a junior at Monmouth University this fall, demonstrating water quality testing equipment near a storm drain outfall pipe on the beach in Long Branch, N.J. University researchers are studying the relationship between heavy rainfall and elevated levels of bacteria from animal waste that gets flushed into storm sewers and out in the ocean at popular surfing beaches at the Jersey shore.
1271096_web1_1271096-1564c379d55542c1b6e8a40c00eb1751
AP
This May 30, 2019 photo shows Jason Adolf, a professor at Monmouth University, pointing to a screen in West Long Branch, N.J. showing enlarged images of microscopic creatures found in a sample of ocean water. University researchers are studying the relationship between heavy rainfall and elevated levels of bacteria from animal waste that gets flushed into storm sewers and out in the ocean at popular surfing beaches at the Jersey shore.

LONG BRANCH, N.J. — Most surfers know it’s best to avoid surfing near pipes that dump storm water into the ocean soon after a storm, due to the increased chance of getting sick from bacteria that enter the surf.

Many do it anyway because the periods just after storms often bring bigger waves, prompting them to hold their nose and brave the so-called “chocolate tube” or the “root beer float.”

Although the relationship between heavy rain, outfall pipes and water-borne bacteria has been well established, it continues to be studied around the country and the world.

One such study is underway at New Jersey’s Monmouth University, where researchers are evaluating water quality at popular surfing beaches along the Jersey shore with an eye toward documenting higher levels of harmful, illness-causing bacteria in the water after storms.

The idea is to give surfers and others who use the water more information to make more informed decisions about when to surf and what might be in the water around them.

“It’s not a question of if you’re going to get sick, it’s when,” said Richard Lee, a surfer and executive director of the Surfers Environmental Alliance, which is funding the $30,000 yearlong study in New Jersey. “There have been ear infections, eye infections, respiratory infections, intestinal problems.

“The water is murkier; sometimes we call it the ‘root beer float,’” he said. “You get this orange-brown float on the surface.”

A 2010 study by the Surfrider Foundation found surfers are more likely to get sick from being in the water than other beachgoers. This is partly because they are in the water more frequently and for longer periods, and ingest 10 times more water than swimmers, the survey found.

A team of student and university staff researchers is taking water quality samples before and after each rainfall this year.

“When we get big storms, the stuff that’s getting into the water is what’s making us sick,” said Jason Adolf, a marine science professor at Monmouth. Most of the bacteria come from pet waste in streets that gets washed down drains and out into the ocean, but occasionally sewer systems overflow into storm drain systems, as well, adding human bacteria to the mix.

New Jersey authorities also do their own beach water quality testing along the shore, but mostly during summer months. The Monmouth testing will continue through fall and winter, when storms can be more numerous and surfers are still in the water. Jeff Weisburg, a specialist professor who teaches about microbiology, health and disease, said fall hurricanes usually produce the best waves of the year on the East Coast.

While the state testing is used to issue swimming advisories and if necessary, to temporarily close beaches when bacteria levels are high, the Monmouth research is aimed more at documenting local conditions at particular beaches throughout the year.

Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said the state has no plans to incorporate the Monmouth research into its own beach monitoring program, and noted “the connections between heavy rainfall, storm water pipe discharges and temporary increases in bacterial levels are well documented.”

Similar work has been going on for years wherever surfers take to the water. High school students in Santa Monica, California, have tested the waters at popular surfing beaches there. Health departments in Los Angeles and San Diego monitor water quality near outfall sources.

And in the U.K., a group called Surfers Against Sewage collected evidence of raw sewage entering waterways and pushed for stricter laws to prevent it. It sent out over 244,000 real-time text alerts about water quality during the 2016 bathing season.

Categories: News | Top Stories | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.