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(TRENTON) — Assembly members Nelson T. Albano and Matthew W. Milam Friday decried as too lenient the sentence handed down to the Pennsylvania dentist found guilty of dumping medical waste into the ocean in 2008, causing numerous New Jersey beach closings just before Labor Day that year.

Thomas McFarland, a Philadelphia dentist who owns a Jersey Shore summer home, was sentenced Friday to four years probation and must pay the township of Avalon $100,000 in restitution for dumping 260 hypodermic needles, 180 cotton swabs and numerous containers for dental filling material into an inlet just before Labor Day weekend in 2008.

As many as 225 syringes washed ashore in Avalon, leading borough officials to close beaches four times. Syringes also washed ashore in Berkeley, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Brigantine and Upper Township.

After learning of the incident, Albano and Milam (both D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland) sponsored legislation (A-3271), enacted earlier this year, doubling the fines for illegal medical-waste dumping in New Jersey waters to $100,000 a day.

Following the sentencing, Albano and Milam released the following statements:

Nelson T. Albano:
“While it was good to hear that Dr. McFarland was found guilty of his actions, his punishment is much too lenient for the havoc he caused.

“Polluters who foul our beaches must pay dearly for tarnishing the shore’s reputation – something today’s sentence does not adequately enforce.

“That is why we worked so hard to significantly increase the fines for medical waste dumping. Hitting polluters in their wallets seems to be the only way to get them to understand that the true cost of beach pollution goes far beyond what is spent to simply clean the garbage off the sand.”

Matthew W. Milam:
“Dr. McFarland’s actions had severe economic repercussions on the region — repercussions that his light sentence does not take into account.

“Just one person’s reckless behavior can have a drastic negative impact on our beach towns and small businesses, something that the new beach dumping fine structure is meant to express.

“It’s my hope that in the future, the courts see fit to put polluters on the hook, not just for environmental damages, but economic ones too.”

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