Friday, April 12, 2013

Algal Blooms Already Sighted - Please Hold Off on Fertilizer!

On Wednesday, COA received a call from a concerned citizen that had sighted a slick (possibly oil) under the Highland Bridge, the caller had notified authorities.  COA went and investigated.  A patchy, multi-brown colored slick that looked like an algal bloom was observed off the dock by Bahr's and under the Highlands Bridge.  The bloom was visible in several areas off Highlands all the way to the west side of the ferry terminal.  It seemed early given that the water temperatures were 49F according to a local fisherman.

(A side fishtale that has to be shared.... When asked how his fishing party boat survived Sandy so well, he replied that he had rode out the storm in the bay.  At around 8 o'clock the storm surge rolled in as a huge wave which rocked his boat. Then he spent a exhausting night hoping to not to get hit by large debris. It was hard to see but with more light they saw everything from refrigerators to the kitchen sink.)

Back to the bloom...  NJDEP went took samples at 6 shellfishing stations from Keyport to the Bridge and on Thursday confirming algal bloom activity which was particularly high under the bridge.  This bloom is not toxic to people.

There are many different reasons why and where blooms form.  Nutrients contribute to algal growth.  Superstorm Sandy released millions of gallons of raw sewage sewage into waterways and moved a lot of dirt and sediment around - making nutrients more available.  Experts think this summer there may be a lot of blooms in coastal bays and lakes and possibly along the coast as a result.  The Monmouth County Health Department observed a bloom along Bradley Beach earlier this week.  While algal growth to a certain extent is essential to marine life, too much algae can have harmful effects to other marine life by blocking light and using up oxygen when it falls to the seafloor and decomposes.

How can you help?  You can avoid fertilizing your yard.  Fertilizer which contains nutrients can enter runoff and groundwater and flow into our waterways which can cause excessive algal growth.  Other ideas... convert your yard into native plant landscapes and plant trees that  slow down and soak up rain water.  If you must use fertilizer, consider amending your soil instead or use a minimal amount of fertilizer and follow guidelines of the fertilizer law. Typically its best to apply in the early fall.  

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