FIRST LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT – Senator Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matt Milam today said they will closely monitor the case of the dentist charged with dumping medical waste off Cape May County waters.
The waste closed several beaches around Labor Day weekend.
The lawmakers renewed their call for new laws they’re proposed that would suspend the license of health care professionals who improperly dispose of medical waste and increase penalties for medical waste and water and ocean pollution.
Pennsylvania dentist Thomas McFarland pleaded not guilty Thursday in state Superior Court in Cape May County to dumping medical waste off Cape May waters. His attorney said he would be applying for pre-trial intervention, a supervised program that would if completed successfully would mean no criminal record.
“This medical waste affected businesses and tourists throughout the region and cost taxpayer dollars to clean up,” Van Drew said. “Our shore is the lifeblood of New Jersey’s tourism economy. Irresponsible actions have a ripple effect through our already soft economy and must be punished severely.”
The Assembly in November voted 78-0 to approve a bill sponsored by the lawmakers that would suspend the licenses of health care professionals and medical waste facilities, generators and transporters for willful illegal or improper medical waste disposal.
They’ve also proposed legislation to toughen penalties against illegal ocean dumping. State penalties for water pollution haven’t been updated since 1990, while those for illegal medical waste handling haven’t been updated since 1997.
“Polluters that foul our beaches need to know they are going to pay and pay dearly,” said Albano. “The financial hit to our beaches was more than just the cost to clean the sand, but in a diminished reputation on which no one can put a dollar figure.”
“People who read about needles washing up may ultimately decide against heading to the shore,” said Milam. “Our beach towns and small businesses are in no position to absorb such a financial hit, especially in these difficult economic times. Polluters found ultimately responsible should be on the hook not just for the damage they do to our beaches, but the damage they do to our entire economy.”