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Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Vindicated After Meeting with Governor & State Officials About Response to Algal Blooms on NJ Lakes

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Senator Joe Pennacchio said he felt vindicated after meeting today with Governor Phil Murphy, officials from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and other elected state and federal officeholders to discuss the State’s response to algal blooms on New Jersey lakes.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio said he felt vindicated after meeting with Gov. Phil Murphy, officials from the NJDEP, and other elected state and federal officeholders to discuss the State’s response to algal blooms on New Jersey lakes. (SenateNJ.com)

“New Jersey lakes were closed this summer I believe due to faulty NJDEP protocols that were based on political science rather than actual science,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “Governor Murphy’s commitment to us today to reevaluate the State’s approach to preventing, monitoring, and communicating with the public about harmful algal blooms is welcomed and represents a total validation of the concerns we raised on behalf of families and businesses that were devastated by this summer’s unnecessary lake closures.”

The senator’s district includes two major lakes, Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, which were both majorly affected by closures this past summer under advisories issued by NJDEP for harmful algal blooms (HABs).

Pennacchio previously had called for a review of State standards for issuing HAB advisories, greater transparency with the public, and increased State support for maintaining Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake.

During his meeting the Governor, Senator Pennacchio reiterated those points and made the following recommendations:

  • Connect State parks to sewer systems;
  • Re-evaluate the methodology of harmful algal bloom advisories; if the State plans on employing certain World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, it should follow WHO protocols which recommend different levels of advisories depending on severity of bacterial count and toxin levels;
  • Commit to signing legislation providing funding for Greenwood Lake which is now before the Assembly for a final vote;
  • Develop a methodology to mitigate algal blooms;
  • Partner with local lakeside communities through grants for storm water management programs; create a grant funding formula which gives greater weight for funding to communities located in the Highlands as these communities are hampered from growing their ratable base due to State imposed building restrictions;
  • Make transparent the NJDEP’s methodology for formulating HAB advisories; and
  • Work with New York State to develop a unified program to prevent and mitigate algal blooms and issue HAB advisories for all of Greenwood Lake.

Following this summit, the Governor issued a press release in which he committed to meeting some of those requests.

“It’s imperative that the NJDEP get the science right on this by looking at toxin levels in additional to simple bacterial counts before issuing HAB advisories,” concluded Pennacchio. “The Governor said he support different levels of advisories and warnings, like what we get for hurricanes. I think this would better reflect the varying risk and threat levels associated with algal blooms at different places and times. This more nuanced approach, which I recommended, could help prevent much of the harm that was caused this summer at several of our lakes.”

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