The Watershed Institute is warning the public about the public health risk of harmful algal blooms, which have already impacted Millstone River and Lake Carnegie.
According to the organization, the harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a serious public health risk that are currently present in the Cranbury Brook, Millstone River, Lake Carnegie and other lakes and ponds statewide.
The Watershed noted that exposure to HABs and even incidental ingestion of water containing HAB-related toxins can cause serious health effects including rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, respiratory irritation and eye irritation, liver toxicity and neurological effects.
“Children and pets are particularly vulnerable because they ingest more water in relation to their weight. HABs are not caused by true algae, but by cyanobacteria that, in many ways, resemble and behave like algae,” said Steve Tuorto, Watershed science director and Erin Stretz, assistant science director, in a release on July 26.
They further said that “these cyanobacteria naturally occur in fresh water and can proliferate to unhealthful levels in sunlight and hot weather, forming dense mats resembling pea soup or spilled paint.”
“Elevated levels of nutrients from polluted stormwater runoff and hot temperatures create the perfect conditions for HABs to thrive,” Tuorto and Stretz said. “The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has developed a color-coded health alert index to provide the public with guidance on suitable recreational activities in freshwater lakes and other water bodies impacted by HABs.”
In addition, the Watershed Institute has published its 2022 StreamWatch Bacteria and HAB Data Map, according to the Watershed Institute.
Monitoring is being used to keep an eye on several hot spots and to identify other bacteria problems quickly. Volunteers can opt to participate in one or more five-week monitoring sessions during the summer.
For more information about StreamWatch and HABs, visit www.thewatershed.org.