It’s safe to assume that part of the fun of volunteering for the recent lake-wide cleanup of Lake Hopatcong is that it’s sort of like a treasure hunt.
It may not have quite the same romance as, say, Indiana Jones’s archaeological exploits in the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies, but there’s something exciting about discovering long-lost artifacts. Most of the intrigue during the Lake Hopatcong cleanup comes not with finding anything of great value, but rather coming up with something quirky.
Among the oddest items found along the shoreline during the recent cleanup included: five rubber rafts, four paint cans, three cell phones, two vacuum cleaners and an old, muddy tiki torch. Yes, the allusion to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song was intended. It is, after all, the holiday season.
There were also numerous sports-related items: a badminton racquet, a hockey stick, a basketball, a couple bowling balls and 42 golf balls.
Perhaps the most enticing item was plucked from the muck near the Glasser Post Office in Hopatcong. Volunteers came up with a wallet, the contents of which included a driver’s license that expired in 2007 but, alas, no cash.
The most visually compelling items, however, were the tires—stacks and piles and heaps of tires—more than 800 of them, pulled from every one of 50+ lake access points on the shoreline over the course of the four-hour cleanup.
Undoubtedly, some of the tires had been used as protective dock bumpers. Perhaps they were accidentally sheared off, or maybe they dropped into the water with a collapsed dock. Surely, however, intentional dumping was a factor.
So, what’s the big deal? They’re just tires, right? Besides being unsightly when the lake’s water level is low, they couldn’t do much harm… could they?
In fact, there’s a not a vast amount of research that has been done on a tire’s impact on bodies of water. Some experiments indicate that chemicals and hard metals that leach from submerged tires may be toxic to living waterborne organisms, most significantly rainbow trout.
In just about every case, researchers insist their findings are not conclusive and more research is necessary.
Beyond doubt, however, is that tires contain a witch’s brew of chemicals, as well as heavy metals, such as zinc, cadmium and lead.
It stands to reason, of course, that untold numbers of tires lie in the lake well beyond reach, and that as they break down their chemicals and metals become dispersed in the water. Even greater degrees of damage is caused by tire dust, routinely left along roadways, that washed down into the lake.
In short, tires are not harmless. As with any litter carelessly discarded in the lake, just because it’s out of sight does not mean the damaging effects don’t exist.
So, before deciding to hoist that old, worn tire into the lake, you can easily find the nearest drop off location for tire recycling at Earth911.com. Simply type in “tires” (or whatever item you need to recycle) and your zip code for a list of the nearest locations for recycling.
Lake Hopatcong, and everyone who uses it, will thank you. And maybe when the next lake-wide cleanup occurs, in the fall of 2023, it might not be such a tiresome task.