SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The blue water of Barnegat Bay was recently turned brown. The discoloration was temporary, but some people fear the damage it did might be permanent.

“I wouldn’t touch it, and I wouldn’t let my dog touch it,” one person told CBS2’s Elise Finch.

A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Transportation said the plume of sediment was released when workers flushed out their new storm water drainage system.

“The pumps have been turned off to prevent any more silt from being discharged, and NJDOT will use a vactor/vacuum to remove any remaining silt from the pump station basin,” they explained in a statement.

Even though most of the water in Barnegat Bay looks fine now, environmentalists and fisherman fear it isn’t. Especially not for the flounder that are known to spawn in the bay.

“There’s a species called blackback or winter flounder that are using this area to reproduce. It relies on something called eel grass which is the healthy garden at the bottom of the bay, and the sediment covers the eel grass which prevents photosynthesis from happening,” Britta Wenzel, Save Barnegat Bay, explained.

“We’re trying to rebuild eel grass in this bay which is prime habitat for bay scallops and other critters and we have winter fowl that come down from Canada. We need those eel grass beds and if they get silted up again it’s gonna be over,” Jim Donofrio, Recreational Fishing Alliance said.

The silt plume off Route 35 is the fourth in Barnegat Bay related to the DOT’s drainage project.

Environmentalists say for the sake of this area’s wildlife, they hope it will be the last.

The state Department of Transportation will clean up any remaining silt from the basin.

 

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