Editorial: The garden hose is no Atlantic Ocean, but it’s probably healthier
It’s only water. You don’t have to go in.
While the temptation is great, with our summer heat temperatures soaring, to refresh our sweaty selves with a leap in the ocean or a local lake, is it worth the risk of stomach flu or a more serious illness as a result of exposure to bacterial infection?
Something to think about.
You can just as easily cool off in your own bathroom shower or with a yard hose or sprinkler. True, that’s not nearly as exciting as a visit to the beach, but it sure is better than a day-after visit to the doctor.
Pennsylvanians love going “down the shore.” The big, beautiful Atlantic is less than two hours away — something that we can enjoy every day, if we want, and that millions of our Midwestern brothers and sisters can only dream about. The lure of the shore is enough to distract ourselves from the knowledge that our recreational waters are polluted.
We don’t want to hear that we and our kids are bodysurfing in bacteria associated with overflowing sewer systems, soiled diapers, agricultural runoff and pet waste. That’s as appetizing as someone licking your tub of ice cream before you buy it. It’s bad enough avoiding stinging jellyfish.
For those who naively think this awful stuff miraculously vanishes, know that our storm drain systems often lead to the ocean and our lakes. It’s led to hundreds of beaches nationwide being closed. In our state, no shore beaches are currently off-limits, but Longport in Atlantic County is under an advisory for bacteria. North Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong, the state’s largest freshwater body, is closed due to bacteria, and Greenwood Lake in Passaic County is closed due to toxic algae.
See, it happens.
Most of the Jersey Shore beaches are considered clean — that is, clean for swimming — so there is no need for panic, only caution. Beachgoers can stay informed by consulting the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program website at njbeaches.org, which provides daily updates on advisories and closings.
The Intelligencer published a story Monday on the quality of our recreational water, and noted a study by Monmouth University in which researchers are trying to document the levels of illness-causing bacteria, especially after big storms, at popular surfing beaches. The intent of the study is to make surfers — who are typically in the water longer and thus more likely to get sick — more knowledgeable about when and where to surf. The state also does its own beach monitoring testing, but usually only during the summer months.
A quote by Richard Lee, a surfer and executive director of the Surfers Environmental Alliance, stood out: “It’s not a question of if you’re going to get sick; it’s when. There have been ear infections, eye infections, respiratory infections, intestinal problems.”
We all know the water we swim in is not pure, even our swimming pools, although the chlorine helps. As with anything involving our health, the better informed we are, the better off we will be. That applies to sunning in the sand and swimming in the ocean.
As mentioned, there are lots of ways to cool off without getting ill in the process. And the shore offers plenty of wonderful amusements to satisfy any vacationer that don’t involve actually jumping in the ocean and inadvertently swallowing a mouthful of sickness-inducing germs. That’s no day at the beach.