People fish near deposits of eel grass Monday in the Holgate section of Long Beach Island. Ben Fogletto

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — Public works crews across Long Beach Island worked Monday to clean up trash and eel grass that washed onto the island’s beaches, Long Beach Island Health Department Director Timothy Hilferty said. 

“We’re seeing this from the tip to tip of Long Beach Island. It’s lighter in the north and heavier on the south end in Holgate,” he said. 

On Monday afternoon in the Holgate section of Long Beach Township, a large snaking line of eel grass and debris was seen on the narrow beach. Mixed within the green eel grass were pieces of plastic, tampon applicators, wood and other debris. 

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Hilferty said public works crews from each of the six towns were manually removing the debris before rakes and other machinery were brought onto the beaches. 

He said he received a telephone call at 11:30 a.m., alerting him to the wash-up. 

“Ninety percent of what is out there is eel grass. It just looks like a lot of seaweed at first and then you can see the debris mixed in,” he said. 

Hilferty said floatable debris may result from the combined sewer overflow systems or from the inner shorelines of the New York/New Jersey Harbor areas. The wash-up is typical following storms, he said.

The state’s Coastal Cooperative Monitoring Program will start conducting water sampling at bathing beaches May 16. 

Larry Hajna, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he also received reports that Brigantine beaches, just south of Long Beach Island, also experienced a waste wash-up. 

By Monday afternoon, Brigantine Police Lt. Jim Bennett said that a beach check was conducted Monday and nothing was seen or reported anywhere on the island’s shores. Department of Public Works Superintendent Ernie Purdy also said he was not contacted by the DEP about reports of waste.

“Nothing has washed up in Brigantine as of right now,” Mayor Phil Guenther Monday afternoon said.

The DEP’s Hajna said he has not received reports of medical waste washing ashore on either island. He also said he had not been notified about excessive amounts of eel grass washing ashore. 

Ocean flyovers conducted by the DEP to monitor offshore waste slicks will not begin until next month, Hajna said. 

Staff Writer Steven Lemongello contributed to this report. 

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