Environmentalist lauds N.J. bill restricting phosphorus in cleaning products

A swan swims in Barnegat Bay in Toms River, N.J.

A swan swims in Barnegat Bay in Toms River, N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

A bill passed by the New Jersey Senate Friday will benefit the state’s coastal estuaries and bays if it eventually becomes law, an environmental leader said.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. James Holzapfel of Ocean County, restricts the amount of phosphorus in household cleaning products and requires wrappers and containers for such products to include information on phosphorous content.

Environmentalists have long warned of the dangers of nutrients, often from phosphorus and nitrogen, flowing into coastal watersheds.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, says phosphates from fertilizers and cleaners can cause excessive growth in algae in bays, estuaries, streams, and freshwater lakes.

“They are turning into the state’s biggest stormwater detention basin. Phosphorus lowers oxygen levels and can kill off eelgrass. If we don’t do something to address nutrient pollution in these bodies of water, we may end up seeing dead zones,” he said in a statement.

According to Save Barnegat Bay, the nutrients increase zooplankton growth, a favorite food of jellyfish, which also thrives in water with lower oxygen levels, while most other animals are not. That in turn leads to more jellyfish, including sea nettles, and a more troublesome environment for recreational activities.

Tittel said the bill becoming law will ultimately benefit the state’s tourism industry and economy.

“Now the Assembly needs to pass it and get it to the governor’s desk to sign,” he said.

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