Officials Urge Swimming Safety After Bird Deaths

Photo courtesy Beach Haven West Civic Association

STAFFORD – As the investigation into the death of about a dozen ducks continues, officials urged people not to swim in the lagoons for a few reasons – both of them involving safety.

The duck deaths were blamed on botulism, although the lab work is incomplete. It is suspected that it started in the Beach Haven West lagoons after a period of rain. It is unknown if it would be gone by now. According to the Center for Disease Control, botulism is caused by a toxin released by a bacteria. It attacks the body’s nerves and in some situations, it can be fatal. It forms naturally under certain conditions.

The other reason is that lagoons don’t have lifeguards.

“If you swim in the lagoons, you swim at your own risk,” Mayor John Spodofora said. “There are no lifeguards in the lagoons and we’d prefer you to swim somewhere that there are.”

While it hasn’t been confirmed, the evidence lines up with what experts suspect is botulism.

“We only know that there was an algae bloom at the same time that the first duck was found dead,” he said.

Further, he urged people to only go crabbing in an approved harvest area, and lagoons are not approved.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection had said that it was likely that after several rainy days, stormwater created an algae bloom in the lagoons, draining the water of oxygen. Lagoons, being man-made, have no natural way for them to drain. This fostered the environment that would make botulism a likely suspect.

Although no new dead birds had been spotted since the initial find, residents are encouraged to report sick, injured or deceased wildlife to animal control at 609-597-1000, ext. 8525, or 609-597-8581 if calling after hours.

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Chris Lundy is News Editor at Micromedia. He has covered Ocean County news and features in various publications since 2003. Lundy worked for Gannett with articles in The Beacon, Observer and Asbury Park Press. He's also written for the Community Connection, Patch and ShoreBeat.