ROXBURY, NJ – In a response to the harmful algal bloom (HAB) impacting Lake Hopatcong, Morris County today announced it is doing more to clean its roads and catch basins near the lake.

Scientists say nutrients washing into the water, primarily phosphates from fertilizers and septic systems, is likely contributing to the bacterial bloom impacting much of the lake, including Hopatcong State Park in Roxbury.

The county today said it embarked on “an expanded street sweeping and storm drain inspection and cleaning project on county roads around Lake Hopatcong, as part of a coordinated effort with lake towns to improve the lake’s health.”

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Roxbury Department of Public Works Director Richard Blood said he was unaware of any new coordinated work involving the township and the county. But he stressed both the town and the county do their best to keep the streets clean and the catch basins empty of debris.

“I’ve not been contacted from them regarding their sweeping,” Blood said. “Typically, they sweep annually and clean their catch basins in two different operations.”

Blood said there is only one county-owned storm basin in Roxbury, situated on Mount Arlington Boulevard near the Shore Hills Country Club. “They routinely clean that out,” he said.

Blood said he and his crews “are doing everything we can” to keep nutrients out of the lake. “We clean the catch basins and sweep the streets as needed after the rain and any event that would create additional material that would run into the lake,” he said.

Tidying Up

The county provided a photo of a street sweeper at work on Lakeside Boulevard near Hopatcong State Park in Landing and said it “moved crews into place this week to intensify efforts to reduce potentially bacteria-causing runoff into the lake.”

It said this additional sweeping “is underway to capture street, lawn and car runoff products from county roads that circle the lake to keep those materials from washing into the water during the next rain event.”

Additionally, the county said it embarked on extra inspections of about 140 storm basins on county roads around Lake Hopatcong. It said “debris cleanouts of those drains (are) planned in the very near future.”

Morris County Freeholder Stephen Shaw said the county is doing its part “to get this great lake back to full health, to help get it reopened for full recreational activities this season.’

Bucco, who also serves as Roxbury’s township attorney, thanked the county “for agreeing to increase the street sweeping and storm drain inspection and cleaning process” around the lake.

Being Proactive

“This effort by Morris County to improve the quality of Lake Hopatcong should be a model for the rest of the state, and I encourage the State of New Jersey to redouble its efforts in the clean-up,” he said in the press release. “While each level of government already has an aggressive schedule, accelerating the process at this time is a necessary measure that is well worth the effort.  We cannot simply sit back and wait for nature to take its course.”

County roads surrounding Lake Hopatcong include Lakeside Boulevard, Mount Arlington Boulevard, Windermere Avenue, Altenbrand Road, Howard Boulevard and Espanong Road (county routes 615, 616, and 631).

“County road crews currently sweep those roads twice a year, and more if needed, mostly to remove sand, grit and rocks that can wash into the lake,” said the county. “They also vacuum storm drains about twice a year for normal maintenance, but return more frequently to clear drains that fill with debris.”

Although boating is being encouraged on the lake, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) advisory against coming into contact with the water remains in effect for most parts of the lake. The bacteria in the HAB can cause a range of health effects including rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis and eye irritation, noted authorities.