Nearly 300 people packed the Hopatcong High School cafeteria on Monday, July 8, to hear the Lake Hopatcong Commission, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection commissioner and officials, and Dr. Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro LLC provide an update and answer questions about the harmful algal bloom (HAB) that has caused a swimming and watersports advisory to be in place on the lake since June 27.
The DEP explained the advisory was not yet lifted, but provided some detail on how the monitoring has proceeded thus far, explaining what data and observations go into their decision to maintain or lift the advisory. A presentation from officials and Lubnow helped explain the risks associated with the HAB, many of which are explained on the DEP’s HAB website. The DEP also explained that they would continue to test the water every Tuesday and Thursday, and conduct aerial checks of the lake weekly, with results being posted the following day. They are also introducing buoys that provide continuous information to the state to help inform decisions. The cell counts of cyanobacteria continue to be above the levels accepted by the DEP, but toxin levels remain below the DEP thresholds.
Dozens of local residents and business owners spoke and asked questions of the DEP and the Lake Hopatcong Commission during the almost three-hour meeting, including whether the silt discharge from the quarry could be related to the bloom (the DEP vowed to investigate), whether it’s illegal to do water sports at this time (it is not), whether well water is affected by the bloom (it is not), if bubblers and ice eaters could help (possibly, but it depends on the specifics of your property), and who to contact if you contract health symptoms that might be related to swimming (after visiting a doctor, contact your local health department and then the state Department of Health). There was also extensive discussion on some of the small and large things that can be done to help prevent future algal blooms, related to stormwater, nutrients, and other potential causes.
The DEP officials said that they are working around the clock to collect and analyze data. They will lift the advisory as soon as they have the data to justify doing so. They did not give a timeline, but said that when such a time arises, they will spread the word as quickly as possible. In the meantime, several speakers encouraged them to better frame the message to the wider world that Lake Hopatcong is still open for some activity.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation will continue to update the public as we receive new information.