ROXBURY, NJ – The state is deploying special buoys in Lake Hopatcong that will help it monitor the ongoing harmful algal bloom (HAB) that has impacted the lake, “an ecosystem out of balance,” officials said yesterday.

Speaking Monday evening at Hopatcong High School before about 200 people crammed in the cafeteria, Leslie McGeorge. Administrator of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Bureau of Freshwater and Biological Monitoring, said the buoys will be installed today.

“The United States Geological Survey as well as DEP are going to be deploying continuous monitoring buoys that are going to help us understand the condition of the lake, the quality of the lake and what’s going on and maybe be able to predict it, predict when it will be going away,” McGeorge said.

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She said the buoys are one of several forms of new technology the DEP is using to assess the HAB at the lake, the largest ever seen in New Jersey. “I think these new technologies will help us understand this better, said McGeorge, who was joined at the meeting by DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe and other DEP officials.

They said the state cannot lift its advisory warning people to not come in contact with Lake Hopatcong water and to not let their pets go in the lake due to the bacteria creating the bloom. The bacteria can cause skin rashes and more serious illness, according to the DEP.

Feels Their Pain

“You have a gorgeous, gorgeous lake here,” said McCabe, adding she is aware “how upsetting it is” to have the HAB with no end in sight.

“I’m up here because I thought it really important to see what was happening myself,” said the commissioner. “I was out on the boats with DEP just this afternoon and you do have a very , very beautiful lake here and I know how upsetting it is to have this harmful algal bloom develop especially right in the beginning of the summer and during the Fourth of July celebration that we all treasure so much.”

She vowed that the DEP staff, including those accompanying her to the meeting, “have been working really, really hard since this first developed to get out there and monitor it with aerial flights as well as taking water sampling.”

McCabe said the DEP will be “stepping up those efforts” by doing aerial flights weekly and doing water tests on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with results posted on the DEP website on Wednesdays and Fridays.

“We have not seen from the testing through last Friday much change at this point,” McCabe said. “More rain came over the weekend. That could go either way in terms of what effect that has on the lake.”

Out of Whack

The DEP officials said the cause of the HAB can’t be pinpointed to one factor. “Quite frankly, there are many, many complex causes,” said McGeorge. “We do not know one, single cause of blooms, but again it is indicative of an ecosystem out of balance. There’s something out of balance in the lake.”

Scientists are measuring both the number of bacteria (Cyanobacteria cell counts) and the levels of toxins (microcystins) in the water. The state health advisory guidance levels for cells is 20,000 cells/ml. The advisory guidance levels for toxins is above 3 ug/l.

While the state, and consultant Princeton Hydro have not found toxin levels to be a concern, with the highest level so far being 1.8 ug/l, but there have been cell counts as high as 115,000, said the DEP officials.

A number of people attending the meeting – particularly some business owners whose livelihoods have been impacted by the HAB – expressed anger at the state and the media. “My personal experience: I’m in the lake every single day,” said Lake Hopatcong Marine President Ron Sorenson. “By the nature of my business, I’m in the water every single day. I’ve had no reactions, no rashes. And I’ve got very sensitive skin.”

He said he thinks the state’s criteria for issuing health advisories are too low. “Things are like being over exaggerated,” Sorenson said. “The media got a hold of it. It’s on Route 80. It’s on the turnpike. I mean it got so blown out of proportion people are afraid to even look at Lake Hopatcong.”

A DEP pdf related to the HAB is herepdf

More TAPinto Roxbury coverage: 

Swimming Banned at Hopatcong State Park in Roxbury and Other Public Beaches

Officials: Lake Hopatcong Harmful Algae Bloom Largest in State History

High Levels of Harmful Bacteria in Lake Hopatcong Lurk Below Clear Water, says State


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