ROXBURY, NJ – The concentration of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) bacteria in the Byram Cove section of Lake Hopatcong is at the lowest level since early July, a finding that prompted the state on Wednesday to lift its “no contact” advisory for water in the cove.
The announcement means Byram Cove joins adjacent Henderson Cove and Indian Harbor in being deemed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as being safe for swimming, paddling, water-skiing and other activities. However, the DEP’s warning about keeping skin and pets away from the water remains in effect for the rest of Lake Hopatcong.
The state issues that warning when it finds concentrations of cyanobacteria in the water to be at 20,000 cells per milliliter or more. It says the bacteria – at that level of concentration – can cause health problems if touched or ingested, primarily skin rashes and gastrointestinal disorders.
Water samples taken Tuesday in Byram Cove found 13,750 cells/mL. The count was 18,000 cells/mL on Aug. 1 and 25,500 cells/mL on July 30.
Cyanobacteria counts decreased at every other Lake Hopatcong sample site tested both Tuesday and on Aug. 1, according to the DEP. Nevertheless, they remain above the advisory level in many areas, including Hopatcong State Park, where the DEP measured 57,250 cells/mL.
The bacteria being counted can – at any time – begin producing microcystins, a potent poison. But none of the water sampled so far by the DEP has been found with unsafe levels of the toxins.
Getting it On Film
The hardship being caused by the HAB to those who use the lake in the summer, and to businesses that rely on those users, is the focus of a "mini documentary" recently created by a fledgling volunteer organization called WildLogica.
Rae Hartwell, a 33-year-old Floridian, gathered footage for the 5-minute-long film "which focuses on the human woes associated with the unprecedented lake-wide algal bloom and the subsequent DEP advisory against swimming and watersports, which has been in place for all or most of the lake since late June," said the non-profit Lake Hopatcong Foundation.
“The algal bloom and the advisory have hit the Lake Hopatcong region businesses and communities hard,” said Marty Kane, chair of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation Board of Trustees. “There has been a lot of frustration that early articles about the advisory characterized the lake as ‘closed,’ which wasn’t the case.”
According to the Foundation, Kane met Hartwell in a "chance mid-air meeting on an airplane." Kane helped Hartwell and WildLogica created the short film.
“The video carries three main messages,” said Kane, “One, that there is a problem; two, that there are ways to successfully address it, and; three, that there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy life around the lake.”
Hartwell interviewed mayors from all four lake municipalities, including Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo, as well as others involved in the HAB problem, including Lake Hopatcong Foundation President Jessica Murphy and Lake Hopatcong Commission Chair Ron Smith.
“People around the lake care deeply about it and are passionate about its welfare,” said Murphy. “While the recent water-quality problems have presented some very difficult challenges, I’m confident everyone will pull together for Lake Hopatcong, and that its future will shine brighter than ever.”
The video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOeQ5Nk4dCo or at lakehopatcongfoundation.org.