Murphy's plan is too little, too late, says Sierra Club

18 Nov 2019 | 01:57

    Today Gov. Murphy and the DEP announced more than $13 million in funding to local communities and a new initiative to reduce and prevent future harmful algae blooms in New Jersey. The initiative will leverage both state and federal funds, including those available through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to offer principal forgiveness to offset infrastructure upgrades necessary to reduce the discharge of nutrient-laden runoff into waterbodies, one of the primary causes of harmful algal blooms. In 2019, there were over 70 suspected and 39 confirmed harmful algal blooms in New Jersey, which is higher than the previous two years.

    “We have a serious crisis with algae and other pollution in our lakes. What Governor Murphy announced today is not going to do anything to make our lakes better for next summer. Murphy should have been working to clean up our lakes from the beginning of his administration. There have been over 50 bodies of water in New Jersey that have been closed, or under advisory for high levels of cyanobacteria. What’s even worse is that over a dozen of these lakes, rivers and reservoirs still have high levels of harmful algae blooms. What Governor Murphy did today was more about having a press strategy than a real strategy to clean up our lakes.,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The funding and initiatives announced by the Murphy Administration to tackle New Jersey’s harmful algae blooms is just a band aid for a massive bullet wound. The $13 million is just a drop in the bucket, and that bucket is still filled with algae water.”

    Smithville Lake in Burlington, Lake Owassa in Sussex County and Canistear Reservoir are the most recent bodies of water impacted by cyanobacteria where cleanup efforts are still ongoing.

    “The state has failed to adequately protect our lakes. That it is why it is critical for the DEP to establish stream buffers and enforce real Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) standards that limit pollutants in our lakes. We need tougher rules on stormwater management and bring back Septic Management Districts. We also need to reduce overdevelopment and sprawl in environmentally sensitive areas,” said Tittel. “We need DEP to do their job, they need to reverse Christie’s rollbacks, restore the state’s lake management program, update C1 streams, and deal with phosphorous. We also need to create a real lake plan that New York has.”

    During the press conference, Governor Murphy was asked about efforts to limit fertilizer to prevent nutrient runoff. The Governor replied that they will be working with local communities and that he will work to get ahead of it as soon as possible. The second element of the initiative is to build upon the state’s scientific expertise and enhance its capacity to respond to harmful algal bloom events. This includes establishing a team of experts from across various sectors to evaluate the state’s strategies to prevent HABs and pursuing additional monitoring, testing and data management capacity.

    “The Murphy Administration need to act fast when it comes to cleaning up and preventing harmful algae blooms. It is important that some of the funding will go to impacted communities however the state needs to take action now on strengthening standards that limit fertilizer, pollution, and more. Climate impacts will only get worse and we need to protect the lakes and rivers we swim in, but more importantly the reservoirs that we drink from. We need a holistic and integrated approach by communities, towns and the state,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Because of climate change and runoff pollution, the Governor has to take stronger action on cleaning up our lakes so that we have places to swim in.”