What was the Black Sludge Being Pumped onto Beach in Ortley Beach?

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ORTLEY BEACH-As dredging began in Ortley Beach to replenish sand lost during Superstorm Sandy on Thursday, beachgoers also noticed a layer of black sludge being deposited onto the beach.

The material was evident in an aerial video posted by the Township on Thursday, showing blackish water being pumped onto the beach.

At first, officials did not know what the material was, which represented a “coagulated oil spill”.

Now, the Army Corps of Engineers has discovered the source of the material.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’  (USACE) Philadelphia District began dredging and beachfill operations at Ortley Beach in Toms River Township on July 12th.

The work is part of the 14 mile beachfill and dune construction along the Barnegat Peninsula. The project is a joint effort of the Army Corps’ Philadelphia District and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and is designed to reduce coastal storm damages.

“During beachfill operations on July 12th, the project team observed a darker material being pumped onto the beach. The team initiated a geotechnical investigation to better understand the situation,” the agency said.  “It appears the dredge hit a peat layer in the offshore borrow area. Peat is a naturally occurring material and is typically a combination of ancient soil and vegetative materials. Though undesirable and a nuisance in a beachfill operation, they are sometimes encountered during the dredging process.”


In a release, the Army Corps of Engineers stated, while the borrow areas are rigorously sampled during the planning of the project, it is possible that a dredge can encounter a layer of peat. These peat layers are common along the coast of New Jersey. USACE and NJDEP will work closely with Weeks Marine to ensure inclusion of these materials in the beachfill are kept at the absolute minimum, but occasionally these materials may be present in the beachfill, but present no danger to the environment or public.

The dredge EW Ellefson resumed dredging operations on July 13 and the team observed typical sand being discharged from the pipe.

Most of the peat substance has been removed from the beach, according to the release.

“Toms River Township raked the beach and was able to remove the vast majority of the peat material from the beach. The project team will continue to monitor the material being pumped onto the beach as always,” USACE said.

To date, USACE has successfully pumped more than 2 million cubic yards of sand onto the beaches of Mantoloking and Brick Township as part of the project.

The project, once fully completed, will cover approximately 14 miles of coastline along the Barnegat Peninsula and will reduce the risk of storm damages for the communities of Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Brick Township, Toms River Township, Lavallette, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, and Berkeley Township. More than 11 million cubic yards of sand will be dredged from approved borrow areas and pumped through a series of pipes onto the beaches of the municipalities. The sand is then built into a dune and berm system designed to reduce potential damages to infrastructure, businesses, and homes that can occur from coastal storm events. For most of the project area, dunes will be built to an elevation of 22 feet. Beaches will be constructed from 100 feet to 300 feet wide and to an elevation of 8.5 feet.

Details on the process to identify sand borrow areas

The coastal geology of New Jersey is extremely complex, influenced over the millennia by sea level rise and fall; movement of inlets, and geologic deposition processes. The sand borrow area identification process includes sampling at multiple locations over a period of years and close coordination with a multitude of state and federal regulatory agencies. This is a scientific approach; however due to the extremely complex geology, there are sometimes pockets of soil materials other than sand such as silt, clay, gravel and peat.

Toms River Township officials said Ortley Beach is open today.