The Inertia for Good Editor
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The Inertia

Some strictly adhere to the “rule.” Some pretend they’re impervious to it. Most of us just forget it exists in the instances when it’s absolutely firing, but no matter which camp you’re in you’ve absolutely pondered how long to wait for a surf after it rains. Is it worth getting sick for the chance at a few barrels?

To each their own on the answer to that one. Regardless, Monmouth University researchers are now evaluating water quality at popular Jersey surf spots with a focus on recording the levels of bacteria known for causing illnesses. The research will be done by a team of university students and staff researchers who will be taking water samples before and after storms for a full year, costing a reported $30,000 in an effort to tell surfers what they already know and mostly ignore anyway. But in nicer terms, the objective is to educate surfers with data so they can make informed decisions.

Of course, it’s a little tougher to disregard that whole “stay out of the water for 72 hours” idea when you consider what post-rain runoff actually consists of…like animal and human waste, mostly from sewer overflow but occasionally just the gnarly stuff that washes into the ocean straight off the ground too. Ignorance is bliss. And so are barrels.

“It’s not a question of if you’re going to get sick, it’s when,” said Richard Lee, executive director of the Surfers Environmental Alliance, which is funding the project. “There have been ear infections, eye infections, respiratory infections, intestinal problems. The water is murkier; sometimes we call it the ‘root beer float.’ You get this orange-brown float on the surface.”

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Currently, state officials already test Jersey waters for bacteria so they can issue swimming advisories when necessary, temporarily closing beaches at times. That effort takes place in the summer months when the general population flocks to the coast, filling the water with swimmers. The Monmouth research project, however, will be focused on specific beaches and sampling will be done in the fall and winter months when there is more storm activity.

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