New Jersey currently has eleven lakes with high levels of harmful algal blooms that are either closed or under advisory.
Eight lakes, including Greenwood Lake and Spruce Run Reservoir, are at an orange ”advisory” level. This means that public beaches are closed, according to DEP’s new mapping tool and color-coded warning system.
Earlier this year, DEP released a new warning system that the New Jersey Sierra Club claims actually weakened standards.
Beaches used to be closed at 40k cells/mL, and now they aren’t closed until cell counts exceed 80k cells/mL.
“It is only mid-July, but we’re already seeing high levels of algae impacting our lakes. Eight lakes have closed beaches and three more are at ‘watch’ levels,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “All eleven would have been closed last year, but DEP recently used their new warning system to roll back standards without telling the public.
“Greenwood Lake, which was at a ‘watch’ level last week, now has beaches closed,” Tittel added. ”Spruce Run Reservoir, which is not only an important recreation area but part of our biggest drinking water supply system, also has beaches that are closed. Their map doesn’t show HABs levels for ‘green’ lakes, so even though lakes like Lake Hopatcong are still open we don’t know how close they are to being closed.”
Eight lakes are at an orange “advisory” level, which means that public beaches are closed and confirmed cell counts exceed 80k cells/mL. These lakes are Spruce Run in Hunterdon County, Greenwood Lake in Passaic County, Brook Park Lake in Essex County, Sunset Lake in Monmouth County, Rosedale Lake in Mercer County, Amico Island Pond in Burlington County, Dramasei Park Lake in Camden County, Mountain Lake in Warren County.
“Each week is getting worse,” Tittel said. “We only had a handful of HABs cases at the end of June, and now we have eleven cases in eight counties. Seven lake beaches are closed at ‘advisory’, including beaches at Greenwood Lake and Spruce Run Reservoir. People shouldn’t swim in the water from these lakes, but we still have to drink it. They still allow people to go out in boats despite the fact that people swim off their boats all the time. Spruce Run and Greenwood Lake were closed for most of the season last year, and it looks like it may happen again this year.
“You’re watching it get worse,” the Sierra Club official said, “because the state hasn’t implemented a plan or funding to clean up the lakes.”
“This is a game they’re playing, using colors instead of actually cleaning up our lakes. We already know when the color system is - it’s blue-green algae and people should be turning red because of DEP’s failure to take action over the past year.”
Tittel said that in order to effectively deal with harmful algal blooms, NJ DEP needs to establish stream buffers and enforce real Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) standards. They need to strengthen rules on stormwater management and bring back Septic Management Districts. They also need to restore the state’s Lake Management Program. Out of the money set aside for dealing with HABs, the state is raiding $2 million to address the current budget shortage.
“DEP needs to take strong action to protect our lakes and their watersheds, otherwise our lakes could end up dying.”