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Jennifer Husko ( jhusko@nbc40.net ) - 8/23/08 06:09 pm
Last Updated - 8/24/08 10:28 pm

AVALON -- A section of Avalon's beaches that recently underwent a $2.4 million dollar beach replenishment project were closed down today as medical waste washed up on the shore. Jennifer Husko has more on the investigation that held safety as first priority.

An unusual sight to see on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the shore, empty beaches stretched from 9th to 24th Streets in Avalon, because the beaches had been evacuated.

"This morning shortly after 10 am, when lifeguards came on duty, they began identifying what appeared to be regulated medical waste on the beach," said Kevin Scarpa, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator.

"We're a little concerned...we were in there this morning," said vacationer, Joe McDougall.

"It's kind of scary you know when you think about it that there's medical waste washing up," said another beachgoer.

As high tide began rolling in, around 150 IV needles (most likely draw needles which are not typically shielded), 8-inch q-tip swabs, pill casings and other plastic medical items washed up and were picked up by the beach patrol, emergency management, health department, police and city officials.

"Our primary concern is the needles (Quick Draw Multi-Purpose Safety Syringe would eliminate this hazard!), we don't know the history we don't know where they came from," Scarpa.

Until they find out officials are not taking any chances. "We're just going to do our best to protect the public, nobody's going to leave this weekend with a needle stick injury if we have something to do with it," said Scarpa.

So the DEP and Cape May County Health Department will continue to investigate.

Officials believe this was an isolated incident and hope serial numbers on the needles will point them to the source but it's safety first, and beaches from 9th through 12th Streets will remained closed until further notice.

The Attorney Generals Office will collect the recovered materials for a complete investigation.

City officials will scour the beach after Sunday morning's high tide at 4:30 to see if any additional items wash up. If nothing is found, it is possible beaches may be re-open.


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