Toxic, bright green algae outbreaks. Shorelines strewn with rotting fish.

Tragically, these disturbing sights are becoming more commonplace around New England’s legendary water bodies as years of unmitigated nutrient pollution take their toll on Cape Cod, Great Bay, Lake Champlain, the Blackstone River, and Narragansett Bay.

These waters all carry excess levels of nitrogen or phosphorous, a problem known as nutrient pollution. This excess nitrogen and phosphorus come from fertilizer running off of farms and lawns and animal waste from confined animal feeding operations. Another major cause is human sewage improperly treated by septic systems or overflowed from combined sewer stormwater treatment systems that are common in the Northeast.

All those surplus nutrients draining into our waterways cause toxic algae blooms, which rob the water of oxygen and make it uninhabitable for most fish, frogs, and other aquatic life. What’s more, such pollution closes beaches, clogs up ponds and lakes, destroys habitat, taints drinking water, and causes fish kills where thousands of fish go belly up at once. At its worst, nutrient pollution literally kills our bays and oceans, creating massive areas called dead zones, devoid of every living thing. Right here in New England, dead zones are already present and growing in Narragansett Bay and the Long Island Sound.

Toxic blue-green algae isn’t just bad for fish and water life – it’s harmful to people and pets, too. Skin irritations, vomiting, and liver damage are the most common side effects of exposure, but developing research is also linking exposure to blue-green algae blooms to serious neurological disorders, including Lou Gehrig’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

CLF is leading the fight against this growing, but controllable threat to clean water and all who depend upon it. State by state, water body by water body, we are challenging current regulations that allow nutrient pollution to continue, pushing for stricter controls on the sources and stronger enforcement of the law.

Addressing this solvable problem requires good science-based planning, financial investment, individual commitment, and political will. CLF is working to ensure strong protections so that the choice for cities and towns is not one for clean water or against, but rather how to act as quickly and cost-effectively as possible to preserve this most fundamental source of health and prosperity.