Barnegat Bay water quality continues to concern experts

     South Seaside Park in August 2014. (Photo: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    South Seaside Park in August 2014. (Photo: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    A new report depicts an ominous picture of the health of Barnegat Bay.

    The Barnegat Bay Partnership released its five-year “State of the Bay Report” Wednesday.

    The report documents the current environmental conditions of the Barnegat Bay and its watershed and compares to the previously documented conditions in the 2005 and 2011 versions.

    The report uses 17 indicators to assess the physical, chemical, and biotic conditions of Barnegat Bay using recent and ongoing research by academic, government, and private-sector scientists and engineers.

    It finds that population growth continues to drive the conversion of open space into urban land. That reduces native habitats and the watershed’s ability to recharge groundwater and filter nutrients.

    The report also says water quality is being degraded by fertilizer runoff from residents’ property and other development. The fertilizer gets washed into freshwater creeks that feed the bay, and almost half of the streams tested didn’t meet water quality standards for aquatic life.

    “A recent study estimating nutrient input to the bay for the time period of 1989-2011 indicated an increase in the amount of nitrogen being delivered to the bay. This excess nitrogen contributes to eutrophication, a process which can result in an increase in nuisance algal blooms, low dissolved oxygen, and other adverse effects that stress the biota of the bay,” the report states.

    But the report does cite good news for swimmers.

    “On a bright note, the number of bathing beach closures due to pathogens continues to decrease as innovative projects address bacteria and other contaminants in stormwater,” according to the report. 

    Experts say the lessons they’re learning about the decline in water quality could help find solutions to problems facing other coastal areas.

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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