Margate beaches blocked off as Army Corps pumps out standing water
Margate officials said the large pools of standing water behind newly constructed dunes had elevated bacteria levels.
MARGATE, N.J. — A half-dozen beach entrances were blocked off with caution tape Tuesday as Margate officials said the large pools of standing water behind newly constructed dunes had elevated bacteria levels and the Army Corps of Engineers worked to pump the water into the ocean.
Mayor Mike Becker, whose town fought the dune construction project for years, said beaches from Fredericksburg to Huntington Avenues were closed by the city as a safety precaution. Pumps were brought in Tuesday by the corps contractor to pump out the pools that have collected behind the dunes since the weekend's rain.
Margate residents and officials have been furious since the pools developed, pointing out that their expert witnesses had accurately predicted the possibility of stagnant water collecting behind the new dunes and not having anywhere to go. Before the dunes were built, Margate addressed drainage problems by digging trenches to the ocean to give the water someplace to go, but the new dunes block that option.
State engineers had argued that any water that collected behind the dunes after a storm would percolate into the sand within 24 to 36 hours. That has not happened. The state also said it was working for a permanent solution to drainage issues related to storm water.
With residents and summer home owners in an uproar, Margate officials are meeting at 11 a.m. Wednesday to consider going back to court to seek an injunction against the project, part of an order from Gov. Christie to build new dunes and widen beaches along the state's 127-mile coastline. The basins, the size of Olympic swimming pools, have been dubbed "Lake Christie" by fuming residents.
Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email: "The corps initially pumped water from the pond onto the other side of the dune. That has stopped. They are bringing in hoses to extend the discharge to the ocean. When that is all set up, the 300-foot stretch of beach will be closed, with primary sampling for 150 feet on either side of the discharge, and secondary sampling 150 feet in each direction."
Becker said the city had decided to close the beaches in the city's north end and was awaiting further results of testing.