ROXBURY, NJ - Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo last night called upon state officials to “be more precise” in determining which parts of Lake Hopatcong should be avoided due to an ongoing harmful algal bloom (HAB).
Speaking at a special meeting of the Lake Hopatcong Commission - a session attended by about 200 people as well as state, county and local officials - DeFillippo criticized the blanket approach taken by the state in warning people to avoid contact with lake water.
“One of the things in terms of short-term solutions that we’ve been talking about now for weeks, is the state needs to monitor more frequently,” he said. “And where the lake is safe the lake should be open again. I think we really need to be more precise and be able to open the lake where the lake is safe.”
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) continues to warn people to not come into contact with water from anywhere on the lake and to keep away their pets. It contends that winds and currents can move around the HAB bacteria unpredictably, making it imprudent to suggest that a section of the lake one not impacted on one day will not be affected the next.
Ready to Make the Move
Nevertheless, Bruce Friedman, director of water monitoring and standards at DEP, said the state might soften its stance - at least for mid-lake water contact - depending on the results of water tests this week.
“We have a plan to move forward, and we’d like to move forward,” he said. “We’re waiting for the results on Tuesday. If the results on Tuesday confirm or continue the trend that we’re seeing - which is a lot of the open waters of Lake Hopatcong being below those advisory levels - we’re ready to move forward on partially lifting the advisory for a large portion of the lake.”
Friedman stressed that scientists continue to see, along shorelines and in coves, cyanobacteria levels above the threshold considered safe for contact. He mentioned Byram Cove, Crescent Cove, Hopatcong State Park and Henderson Cove.
The HAB, first noticed in late June, is the largest in state history, according to the DEP.
Those who came to the meeting at Hopatcong High School drove through torrential rain that caused catch basins to overflow and streets to flood - exactly the conditions that wash into the lake phosphorous and other nutrients being blamed for causing the unprecedented HAB.
This was pointed out by Friedman, who noted that the downpour came on the heels of a weekend that saw bright sunshine and oppressive heat ideal for HAB growth.
“There are large portions of the lake where we feel like we’re close (to being able to lift the advisory) and then this weekend happens,” Friedman said. “A number of days of near 100-degree heat … and then we have the ride over here in a torrential downpour. Mother Nature is not cooperating. I’ll just say that.”
More State Money, Please
Many at the meeting said it’s high time the state - which owns the lake - owned up to its responsibility to help pay for protecting it from nutrient infusion due to stormwater and septic system failure.
A number also contended the state dropped the ball in terms of cracking down on sediments entering the lake via a stream through the Weldon Quarry granite mining operation. Although DEP officials said they doubted the material coming from the quarry are contributing much to the HAB, Fred Lubnow, director of aquatic services at consulting firm Princeton Hydro, said he found high levels of phosphorous “just below” the stream’s entrance into the lake.
Lubnow said Princeton Hydro calculated it would take about $4 million to adequately protect Lake Hopatcong through stormwater runoff control projects around the lake and full-time staff to maintain them.