A collaborative effort between state, county, and local officials culminated in locating and eliminating a significant source of bacterial contamination in Monmouth County's Shark River, authorities said.

The Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Marine Water Quality Monitoring detected "extremely elevated" bacteria levels early last November, according to an agency release.

That spurred the suspension of clam harvesting in two stretches of the river: 122 acres in Neptune City and 144 acres in Belmar, the release said. 

Officials determined that the bacteria was a strong indicator of sewage leaks, prompting a collaborative effort between the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection, Monmouth County, and Neptune City to find and eradicate the problem. 

Using dye tests and cameras, the government partners located sewage leaking into a stormwater discharge pipe at West Sylvania Avenue in Neptune City. From there, they traced the source of infiltration into the stormwater pipe to two leaking municipal sewer lines that were recently repaired.

The group is set to launch a similar effort to track down the source of bacteria being discharged into the western portion of the river's basin.

"We still have a lot more work ahead of us, but this is a great step toward identifying and tracking sources of bacteria that impact shellfish beds and can diminish the public's recreational enjoyment of the river," said Ray Bukowski, DEP's Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement, who organized the track-down effort.