Environmental Health

Public Recreational Bathing


Cyanobacteria are a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Although they are not true algae, they were often referred to as “blue‚Äźgreen algae”. A cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) is the name given to the excessive growth, or “bloom”, of cyanobacteria. Adverse health effects from recreational exposure to cyanobacterial cells and cyanotoxins can cause effects ranging from a mild skin rash to serious illness. HABs often occur under suitable environmental conditions of light, temperature, nutrient enrichment, and calm water.  CyanoHABs and their toxins can harm people, animals, aquatic ecosystems, the economy, drinking water supplies, property values, and recreational activities, including swimming and commercial and recreational fishing. 

In New Jersey, HAB monitoring, identification and response activities are conducted through a collaboration of partners including the Department of Environmental Protection’s-Bureau of Freshwater & Biological Monitoring, Department of Health-Public Recreational Bathing Project, and local health authorities who oversee freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. Please access the links below to learn more about HAB’s and New Jersey's coordinated response efforts. 


New Jersey Harmful Algal Bloom Main Page

Questions about Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)

Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) -associated Illness

EPA's Cyanobacterial HABs in Water



The Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program (CCMP) is a collaborative effort by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)- Division of Water Monitoring and Standards, Department of Health (DOH)-Public Health and Food Protection Program-Public Recreational Bathing Project and coastal local health authorities (LHA), to assess coastal water quality at public recreational bathing beaches.  Results are communicated to the public and posted online.  Sources of water pollution are subsequently investigated to protect public health and safety.

Water samples are collected from coastal marine waters routinely from mid-May through September.  Samples are analyzed for the fecal indicator bacterium, Enterococcus.  Enterococcus itself is generally not harmful but indicates the possible presence of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, viruses, and protozoans that also live in human and animal digestive systems.

Swimming in water exceeding the standard poses an increased risk of illness, such as gastroenteritis, low grade fevers and infections.  To protect the public’s health, any sample found to exceed the maximum standard concentration of 104 colony forming units of Enterococci per 100 ml of sampled marine waters, requires a swimming advisory and/or closure of the recreational bathing waters. Resampling and a sanitary survey of the area by a licensed health inspector is conducted.

The DEP coordinates CCMP activities, with cooperation of the DOH, to ensure New Jersey’s bathing beaches are safe and clean.  You can find more information about beach water quality sample results, beach status, reports, fact sheets and similar information by visiting the website at: https://www.njbeaches.org/





Complaints regarding public recreational bathing facilities may be directed to the facility's local health department.


Last Reviewed: 7/13/2021