Clean Ocean Action

Clean Ocean Advocate, July 2005


Algal Bloom & Water Quality Questions

     Early June’s hot and humid temperatures brought people to the shore, but a massive algal bloom from June 9-16 kept them out of the water.  Run-off from a rain event carried fertilizers, pet wastes, and other nutrients into the water, combined with a rapid increase in water temperature and an onshore wind made conditions right for the algae, specifically diatom and dinoflagellate populations, to explode.  The result was a slick of mucky brown water and foam extending from Sandy Hook to Long Branch.  When the bloom began to die off and float to shore, beach-goers experienced smelly brown mats of algae in the surf and on the beach.  Clean Ocean Action (COA) received many calls as people wondered what was impacting water quality.  Although unpleasant, blooms of this algae do not cause any human health issues for beach-goers. 


Continued Concerns for Ocean Water Quality

     At the same time, COA also learned that weekly monitoring results for those same beaches (conducted Mondays from Memorial to Labor Days) revealed bacteria levels were as high as seven times the state standard.  Re-sampling on Tuesday showed bacteria levels below the state standard.  The same conditions that trigger an algal bloom, including runoff after a significant rain event, can also result in high bacteria counts in the water.

     This incident strongly supports COA’s ongoing call for more frequent testing (especially after rain events) and immediate posting at beaches that exceed bacteria limits.  The current program in NJ only requires closing the beach after two consecutive days of high bacteria levels, but due to the 24+ hours it takes to get results, water quality is unacceptable and unhealthy for at least three days before beaches are closed. 

     COA is researching other states’ programs and, specifically, is looking into new testing procedures that can provide results in a few hours and continues to urge NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to adopt monitoring procedures more protective of human health. 

     For COA’s recommendations to improve beach monitoring, check “Issues and Campaigns” on our website and follow links for “Coastal Water Quality.”  To review weekly bacteria monitoring results from NJ beaches (available by Tuesday afternoon), go to


49 Avenel Blvd.
Long Branch, NJ 07740

Field Office:

Gateway National Recreation Area
Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Voice: (732) 872-0111
FAX: (732) 872-8041

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