Budd Lake pollution reduction plan approved by DEP

MOUNT OLIVE TWP. – A plan to improve water quality in Budd Lake has been approved by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The nonprofit Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) partnered with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program and Mount Olive Township to develop the “Budd Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan.”

Budd Lake is New Jersey’s largest naturally-formed lake, covering 374 acres at the headwaters of the South Branch of the Raritan River. In the mid-1800s, Budd Lake became a favorite summertime playground, offering swimming, boating and fishing; today it is also a source of drinking water for 1.8 million downstream residents. However, its water quality has been significantly degraded over the years by pollutants washed into the lake by stormwater runoff.

Funded by a DEP grant, the plan will serve as a blueprint for multiple actions to improve conditions in the lake. It will also inform climate adaptation planning for Mount Olive Township.

“The goal is to capture and filter stormwater upstream of the lake so that water quality improves over time, making it less prone to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and a much cleaner place for fishing, boating and swimming,” explained Dr. Kristi MacDonald, RHA’s science director, who coordinated the development of the plan.

Budd Lake has suffered from a double-whammy in recent decades. Sprawl development has reduced the amount of open land near the lake, and climate change has brought more frequent and intense storms, as well as warmer temperatures that heat up lake water in the summer. With fewer forests and wetlands available to soak up rainfall, a larger volume of stormwater is funneled toward the lake, picking up contaminants along the way.

Among the pollutants carried by stormwater are nutrients from fertilizers, bacteria from septic systems and animal waste, pesticides, road salt, petroleum residue from roads, and sediments.

With the DEP’s approval of this plan, many grant opportunities become available for improvement projects.

The plan calls for building “green infrastructure” – including rain gardens, bioswales and other natural means – to capture and filter stormwater in the watershed surrounding Budd Lake. It also explores other measures, such as preserving forests and wetlands in the lake’s watershed, installing treatment devices at stormwater outfalls to the lake, replacing impervious surfaces with porous surfaces, and building floating islands of native plant vegetation to capture some of the nutrients in the lake, particularly phosphates.

Another emphasis is engaging the local community to help. For example, the “River Friendly” certification program describes multiple steps that residents, businesses, schools, and other organizations can take. Residents and businesses that build rain gardens on their properties may be eligible for rebates to cover costs.

“Whatever we put on the land or flush down the drain can potentially end up in our streams and lakes,” says MacDonald, “That means we all play a part in protecting our water, and that includes the residents and businesses in the Budd Lake watershed.”

The Budd Lake restoration plan was developed with input from an advisory committee made up of Mount Olive residents and township officials, as well as representatives from DEP, the Highlands Council, and New Jersey Water Supply Authority.

“I am looking forward to progress on lake conditions,” said Kathleen Murphy, chair of the Mount Olive Environmental Commission and vice chair of the Open Space Committee.  “This plan offers public awareness and education, remediation of past deeds and conditions, and a way to proceed with future best practices. A win-win for everyone!”

“The Township is extremely thankful to the Raritan Headwaters association and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program for partnering with Mount Olive and the DEP to develop the Budd Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan,” said Township Administrator Andrew Tatarenko.  “The Township is committed to improving the watershed and protecting Budd Lake.” 

According to Tatarenko, grants have already been applied for to improve the storm drain inlets along municipal roadways and stormwater Manufactured Treatment Devices (MTD) along Route 46.  “In addition, as part of our Budd Lake Redevelopment project, green infrastructure will be installed within the parking lot areas to help reduce the amount of pollutants entering the lake,” he noted. “This plan will give the Township a roadmap of future project to consider.”

Raritan Headwaters will continue to monitor water quality in Budd Lake and immediately downstream in the South Branch. RHA has a climate station in the South Branch that continually measures water temperature, depth and conductivity (which helps indicate the amount of road salt in the water).

To view the plan, visit www.raritanheadwaters.org/maps-data/ and scroll down to “Projects.”

Now that the Budd Lake restoration plan is written and approved, Raritan Headwaters will be working with the New Jersey Highlands Council and Rutgers on similar restoration plans for other sections of the North Branch, South Branch and Black River/Lamington River within the Highlands region.

About Raritan Headwaters

Since 1959, Raritan Headwaters Association has focused on one thing — clean water. RHA engages citizens and decision makers in the protection of the Raritan River headwaters region and beyond through science, education, land preservation and advocacy.

RHA’s 470-square-mile region provides clean drinking water to 300,000 residents of 38 municipalities in Somerset, Hunterdon, and Morris counties and directly impacts over 1.5 million homes and businesses in New Jersey’s densely populated urban areas. To learn more about Raritan Headwaters and its programs, please visit www.raritanheadwaters.org or call 908-234-1852.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.