U.S. Water News Online
BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. -- A state senator said he will ask
the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to study
nitrate levels in the ocean after receiving complaints that fish are
scarce near the coast.
Sen. Leonard T. Connors, R-Ocean, met with a local fisherman who
said nutrients, including nitrates, from treated sewage that is
discharged into the ocean are sucking oxygen out of the water and
driving fish away.
``I don't have the expertise to say that it's nitrates,'' Connors
said. ``But a study needs to be done.''
Fisherman Bill Hammarstrom of Waretown wants municipalities to
stop discharging treated sewage into the ocean.
``We can't catch a fish within five miles of the beach,''
Hammarstrom said. ``It's going to be the end of an era'' if something
is not done.
Dery Bennett, of the American Littoral Society, said he has not
seen any evidence fish are leaving the waters off Barnegat Light.
``It's not unusual for fish to move when water conditions are not
good,'' Bennett said.
Although the state does not have standards for the nutrient
content of sewage, the department disputes arguments nutrients are
driving fish away, said Amy Collings, a spokeswoman for the state
Department of Environmental Protection.
``We don't have any evidence that nitrates could reduce the number
of fish in the near-shore area,'' Collings said.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a study
of whether nitrates affect fish and the state DEP is helping,
A scientist with Clean Ocean Action said the state allows sewage
containing too many nutrients to be dumped into the ocean.
``With nutrients, the dose is the poison,'' Kristen Milligan said.
``Above certain levels, they overenrich the environment.''
A study by the environmental group on treated sewage discharged in
the ocean is scheduled to be released in August.
``We know there are pollutants in the wastewater,'' Milligan said.
``The criteria for toxins and nutrients in the sewage are not
stringent enough for discharge into the ocean.''
But Ocean County officials say the quality of the sewage treatment
their plants discharge has been consistent for 20 years.
``The oxygen levels in the ocean are impacted by many things,''
said Richard Kunze, director of technical services of the county
Although the flow of treated sewage has increased with the
county's population, the content has not changed, Kunze said.
The plants remove about 92 percent of solids in wastewater from
homes. The material is treated and sent to landfills and
The remaining liquid is treated and then discharged into the ocean
through outfall pipes.
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