Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Science Behind the Green Slime

Save Barnegat Bay!

Algae blooms and fish kills have been making headlines recently, from the Great Lakes to the Shark River. Although these events occur naturally, due to changes in weather or season, they are usually a symptom of too many people doing things that overwhelm the ecosystem.  For example, too many lawns being fertilized too much. COA calls this “people pollution," but others call it non-point source pollution. Littering is another example.  

Too much of anything can cause problems. Algae blooms, for instance, are often caused by an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus in the system the active ingredients in fertilizer.  

Any excess fertilizer applied to a property that doesn't seep into the soil will likely be washed away by rain, down the streets and into storm drains, and end up in our waterways. These same nutrients that make grass grow also work on algae. Too many nutrients in a condensed area can easily overwhelm the whole system and cause many problems, such as fish kills. This process is called eutrophication, and is a common coastal issue.

Barnegat Bay is a tragic example of a waterway with people pollution issues.  Rutgers scientists have reported that sensitive seagrass species are declining, and have documented other signs that the bay’s health is in jeopardy. In a recent article by KirkMoore in the Asbury Park Press, researchers reported that 25% of the watershed in Barnegat Bay is lawn, and population has skyrocketed from about 200,000 to 580,000 over the last 40 years….and that does not include summer visitors.

Some Groups like COA, Save Barnegat Bay, the American Littoral Society, and Pinelands Preservation Alliance were key in passing NJ’s fertilizer law to help address this issue.  But more must be done. Under the Clean Water Act, waterways that have become polluted can be declared  “impaired” which would then trigger legal requirements for the state to act to reduce pollution sources.

You can help! Support Save Barnegat Bay’s efforts to have the waterway declared impaired by signing their petition. Also, become a BarnegatBay “Bay Buddy” and use environmentally friendly landscaping practices. Visit our website for more information on ways to get involved. Whether you live in Barnegat Bay or not, these actions will improve all waterways.

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