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(TRENTON) – First District lawmakers Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Nelson T. Albano and Matthew W. Milam on Monday lauded the guilty plea of a Pennsylvania dentist who dumped 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, pled guilty to 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.

Following the incident, Van Drew, Albano and Milam sponsored legislation , enacted earlier this year, doubling the fines for illegal medical-waste dumping in New Jersey waters to $100,000 a day. Under the terms of McFarland’s plea agreement, he will be sentenced to one year probation and must pay Avalon $100,000 to help offset the cost of the beach cleanup.

Van Drew, Albano and Milam released the following statements:

Jeff Van Drew:

“This incident was offensive to me both as a dentist and as an advocate for our South Jersey shore economy.

“I’m glad to see Mr. McFarland take responsibility for his actions, but the bottom line is he should have never done this in the first place.

“His actions threatened our economy, jobs and our environment.

“At least now we know those who violate our laws will face stricter penalties, and hopefully we will never see something like this again.”

Nelson T. Albano:

“Polluters who foul our beaches must pay dearly for tarnishing the shore’s reputation, and today’s plea marks a good step in that direction.

“Unfortunately, the true cost of beach pollution goes far beyond what is spent to simply clean the garbage off the sand. Incidents like the one created by Dr. McFarland affect area tourism and influence peoples’ decisions when picking a beach vacation destination.

“I would hope that, in addition to the fines, Dr. McFarland sees fit to donate some of his time to keeping our area beaches clean.”

Matthew W. Milam:

“While this episode is behind us, the unfortunate truth is that Dr. McFarland’s actions had severe economic repercussions on the region.

“It’s extremely unfair to ask our beach towns and small businesses to absorb the financial hit caused by any one person’s reckless behavior.

“Having said that, it’s heartening to see that the courts agree with us that polluters should be on the hook, not just for environmental damages, but economic ones too.”

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