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New Jersey is also a national leader in the disposal of human sewage to its water bodies – more than 23 billion gallons of sewage per year.

In cities with combined storm and wastewater systems, heavy rains cause wastewater to overflow into storm drains and waterways rather than to sewage treatment plants. Of the 84 municipalities in the United States that still have such systems, 21 are in New Jersey. Almost all serve towns in northern Jersey, with only Camden and Gloucester City still using combined systems in southern Jersey.

On the Jersey coast, however, barrier island municipalities tend to have a high percentage of impervious surfaces – paved, covered with buildings, even with plastic buried to deter weeds. These send pollutants into the bays and the ocean. Runoff is the primary cause of degradation in Barnegat Bay in Ocean County.

Last month, the Drinking Water Quality Institute, which advises DEP, announced an effort to find a way to control toxic algal blooms.

But instead of reducing the runoff into streams that supercharges algae, the institute hopes to find and recommend to DEP methods of treating water and algae to protect human health from blooms.

A senior official with DEP’s water quality division said prevention is better than cure, according to NJ Spotlight. The best mitigation of potentially toxic algae to ensure blooms don’t occur, said Kristin Tedesco, director of DEP’s Bureau of Water System Engineering. This could be accomplished “if water supply systems can take steps to prevent overgrowth or to actually reduce their nutrient load,” she said.

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