The Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program (CCMP) is a joint effort between the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Cape May County Health Department (CMCHD). During the bathing beach season, 61 ocean stations and 8 bay stations are monitored on a weekly basis for enterococcus.
Samples are analyzed by the CMCHD laboratory using the membrane filtration method. If lab samples test positive for bacteria called enterococcus, the Health Department takes a second sample at the test site along with beaches north and south of the hot zone to determine the extent of the contamination. The bathing beach standard is for a count of less than 104 enterococci per 100 milliliters of sample. If the counts are still above the bathing beach standard, the beach is closed to swimming.
Many of the elevated bacteria levels and subsequent beach closure occur after rainfall events. Many of the high readings recorded in southern New Jersey are temporary fluctuations caused by pollution that washes into the ocean through storm drains after a heavy rainfall. In many cases, the contamination readings return to normal the following day, so no closure is warranted.
It should be noted that it is the long-standing policy of the Cape May County Health Department of "No Swimming" in non-designated/unprotected waters.
The NJDEP also flies over the beach 6 times per week looking for signs of trouble, such as:
Broken sewer mains
Other indicators of pollution
Updated information regarding any beach closures can be obtained by calling the Health Department Hotline at 609-463-6581 or by visiting the New Jersey Ocean Beach Information website for weekly postings of test results.