Sierra Club director explains science behind algae blooms and how to stop them

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Algae blooms have been a big topic of conversation in New Jersey this summer -- and while removing the algae is possible, the treatment to fix the problem can cause more issues for a water supply.

What used to be a problem for southern states has now come to New Jersey. The issue extends past small bodies of water - it is now an issue in some large reservoirs, which directly impacts drinking water.

"What's happening now is that the algae blooms are happening earlier, and they're staying with us longer," says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Most of Lake Hopatcong has been closed now, heading into two months."

The list of impacted bodies of water is long, but Spruce Run and Manasquan Reservoir stand out because of their importance to the water supply.

Standard practice for treating algae blooms involves chlorine and ozone, and while the Manasquan Reservior was recently cleared of the blooms, a new set of chemicals are created during the process.

"With chlorine you end up getting these by-products. Chlorophyll is one of them, another is trihalomethane. So you end up with another set of problems, which then need further treatment," says Tittel.

Tittel says this summer has been worse for blooms because of warmer temperatures and more rain.

During the bloom, American Water used sources other than the Manasquan Reservoir to supply local towns. In water supplies with active blooms, visitors are warned to not come in contact with the water, and not to eat fish that are caught in the water.

Cooler temperatures this week can briefly help with the problem statewide.


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