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(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblymen Matt Milam, Nelson Albano and John F. McKeon sponsored to toughen the financial penalties against illegal ocean dumping was signed into law on Monday.

The measure was crafted after several South Jersey beaches were forced to close around Labor Day weekend 2008 after illegally dumped medical waste washed ashore.

As many as 225 syringes and other medical waste were found 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.

The law (A-3271) doubles the fines for illegal medical-waste dumping in New Jersey’s waters to $100,000-per-day.

It also provides for an assessment against a violator of the actual amount of any economic benefit accruing to the violator from the violation.

The lawmakers noted that state penalties for water pollution hadn’t been updated since 1990, while those for illegal medical waste handling hadn’t been updated since 1997.

“Polluters who foul our beaches must pay dearly for tarnishing the shore’s reputation,” said Albano (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “The true cost of beach pollution goes far beyond what is spent to actually clean this garbage off the sand, but includes the long-term effects when people decide to use this disgusting episode to decide against visiting our beaches.”

“Our beach towns and small businesses are in no position to absorb the financial hit caused by someone’s reckless behavior,” said Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “Polluters should be on the hook not just for environmental damages, but economic damages, too.”

The lawmakers said that while the former $50,000-per-day fines allowable under clean water law looked severe, its effectiveness had eroded since enactment in 1990. Had the penalties kept pace with inflation, the trio noted that the fines would be equal to roughly $82,800 in today’s money.

“Dumping medical waste into New Jersey’s oceans poses a grave threat to public health and safety,” said McKeon (D-West Orange). “We must do all that we can to protect New Jersey’s environment and hold these individuals accountable by increasing penalties for such reckless behavior that threatens the health of our environment and communities.”

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