WEST MILFORD, NJ (Passaic County) – U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) on Thursday sounded the alarm on Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) continuing to impact lakes throughout New Jersey.
New Jersey announced in November critical first steps of $13 million matching investments to combat toxic algae wreaking havoc on the state’s lakes, local businesses, and residents. Some Jersey lakes, like the Fifth District’s Greenwood Lake, lack the resources needed to match the state’s investment — or may only qualify for part of it.
In 2019, there were more than 70 suspected and 39 confirmed harmful algae blooms in New Jersey — higher levels than the previous two years.
Gottheimer called on steps to combat Harmful Algal Blooms at every angle:
1) Emergency Mid-Year New Jersey Appropriations: Gottheimer, along with Representatives Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), Donald Payne , Jr. (NJ-10), and Andy Kim (NJ-3), wrote to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, and New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin requesting immediate passage of an emergency mid-year appropriations package to bring additional, much-needed investment to address HABs issues across the state.
2) Boosting EPA Technical Assistance and Investment Throughout the Fifth District: Gottheimer also announced plans to boost technical assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Fifth District, and working with North Jersey municipalities and lake commissions to claw back EPA investment opportunities to combat HABs.
3) Distributing EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund Investment to New Jersey Lakes: Gottheimer further called on New Jersey to distribute investment from the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund to all lakes impacted throughout the state.
“Right now, countless lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers all across New Jersey — including here at Greenwood Lake — are facing another summer with Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs), and we need to do everything we can to help combat another environmental crisis. In November, the Governor announced critical and welcomed first steps – and an important use of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. However, not all the lakes in Jersey, including Greenwood Lake, have the immediate resources to match those funds. To combat an environmental crisis, we can’t just help some, we need to work to help all,” Gottheimer said. “Today, to help head off a crisis this summer, along with my colleagues from our Congressional delegation — Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski, Don Payne, and Andy Kim — we are asking the state to immediately pass an emergency mid-year appropriations package to bring additional, much-needed investment to address these issues affecting lakes across the state. This can’t be done one off, lake by lake. It needs to look at every lake community hit by the harmful algae bloom.”
“Greenwood Lake is a critical water supply for the state. It is not only a source for the Wanaque and Monksville Reservoir systems, but it is a back-up water supply source. Last summer we had a crisis with lakes being closed due to harmful algae blooms. With climate change and stormwater runoff, things will only get worse. Greenwood Lake is finally clean enough to swim in, but now the only thing we can do is go ice fishing if the ice gets thick enough,” Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel said . “Next summer is right around the corner. If we don’t get the money soon we will not have time to deal with the problems for this coming season.”
“I really appreciate the Congressman for coming here and bringing attention to our issues because the HABs were really bad over the summer and bringing statewide attention to this will help not only our community but all lake communities in New Jersey,” Co-Chairman of the Greenwood Lake Commission Paul Zarillo said.
Gottheimer was joined by Greenwood Lake Commission Paul Zarrillo, Lake Commissioner Jonathan Brett, Lake Commissioner Eric Pain, Lake Commissioner Eric Hastings, Assemblywoman Betty DeCroce, West Milford Mayor Michele Dale, West Milford Councilman Warren Gross, West Milford Councilwoman Ada Erik, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition Julia Somers, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel, Policy Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Henry Gajda, local officials, and Greenwood Lake area business and marina owners.