The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has developed a color-coded health alert index to provide the public with clear guidance on suitable recreational activities in freshwater lakes and other water bodies impacted by harmful algal blooms (HABs). The new index provides much greater precision on recreational use recommendations for impacted water bodies based on levels of cyanobacteria and/or cyanotoxins present. The index has multiple alert categories that recommend activity restrictions based on water monitoring results. The new index will clarify for the public that, in some instances, boating and related activities may still be permissible when lower levels of harmful algal blooms are detected.
The index is part of a broader response initiative following a year in which nearly 40 harmful algal blooms impacted the state. This initiative includes more than $13 million in state funding for local projects to mitigate and respond to harmful algal blooms and to enhance monitoring and communication of health information to the public.
The DEP’s Harmful Algal Bloom website will be updated to include this new index and accompanying signage, relevant monitoring data, and other information for each of the impacted bodies of water, as well as an updated HAB Monitoring and Response Strategy.