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Tuesday
Aug302011

Has Irene Polluted Shoreline Beaches?

ABC News(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ordered people back to the beach now that Hurricane Irene has blown through the state, although his own environmental agency is still testing waters for sewage, bacteria and debris churned up by the storm.

"Get the hell back on the beach," the notoriously blustery governor tweeted Monday as Irene faded away.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection issued a warning on its website Monday that raw sewage was spilling from a lake into the ocean near Asbury Park, just three blocks south of where Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno held a press conference encouraging visitors to make one last trip to the state's beaches for Labor Day weekend.

"We're open for business," Guadgno said.

Larry Ragonese, spokesperson for the DEP, said the agency had begun testing all of the beaches up and down the coast for water quality and expected to have the results posted by the end of the week on njbeaches.org.

"Obviously you have tremendous runoff of stormwater," Ragonese said. "And everything that is on land and sea kind of meet. So we're looking for any kind of bacteria, anything unusual. We're also looking for debris, from docks or boats. You don't want a life vest popping through the water."

Ragonese said it was likely that stormwater from Irene could have overwhelmed sewer systems and caused overflows, and that the department would be monitoring the water closely.

State environmental officials are testing beaches all along the Irene's path from North Carolina to New York as Labor Day weekend approaches.

Until the test results come in, beaches and the ocean will remain open, Ragonese said.

"It's up to each town along the coast. They're the ones as far as safety that would determine that," Ragonese said.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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