Recent Closure of Belmar’s River Beach Triggers Closer Look at Sewer System, Use of Illegal Sump Pumps

When five inches of rain fell on Belmar in one day during the Memorial Day weekend, it caused contaminated water to overflow from this manhole on Route 35, forcing the closure of the L Street beach. Credits: Cathy Goetz

BELMAR, NJ — It’s not the way any Jersey Shore town wants to kick off its tourism season.

When five inches of rain fell in Belmar in one day during the Memorial Day weekend, a back-up of wastewater in its sewer system overflowed into stormwater drains, causing contaminated water to flow to the borough’s lowest point along Route 35 — and into the Shark River near the L Street beach.

As a result, a high level of bacteria from the sewage overflow created unsafe swimming conditions, forcing the river beach to be closed for four days.

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“(The Ocean Avenue pumping station) couldn’t handle the inflow from the rain event,” said Councilman Mark Levis during the borough council’s June 6 meeting. “We had 3 million gallons of waste (water) going through the sewer system in one day when we usually have 900,000 gallons this time of year.”

Despite some reports that the wastewater entering the stormwater system was caused by a ruptured sewer line, Public Works Superintendent Michael Campbell said that was not the case. Water flowing through the sewer lines was “at the top,” but moving at a slower pace and being pumped at capacity through the borough’s system to the Southern Monmouth Regional Sewerage Authority’s treatment plant, which also was at capacity.

Although it was the first time in 15 years that a combination of heavy rains and heavy usage placed such a severe strain on Belmar’s sewer system, the borough council believes it’s time for an up-close look into the water lines themselves.

It has directed Business Administrator Colleen Connolly to explore funding opportunities through the water and sewer utility for such a project, which would involve placing cameras into the system to determine where any problems exist within system's infrastructure.

But even before any project comes to fruition, borough officials are advising homeowners who use sump pumps or direct rainwater from their gutters into the municipal sanitary sewer system to notify the borough. These activities are illegal and only add to the wastewater infiltration problem during heavy rains, according to borough officials.

“As we pursue an investigation of the sewer system, one thing we will do is testing to see what homeowners are tying into the sewer system,” Connolly said. "So it is advisable to rectify the situation now before we get too far down the road.”

For more information on sump pump usage or gutter water discharge into the borough’s sewer  system, contact the borough at 732-681-3700, ext. 215.

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