Toxic blue-green algae discussed at Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting

JEFFERSON – Discussion concerning a toxic blue-green algae bloom found in Crescent Cove dominated the conversation at the most recent Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting, Monday, August 18.
Commissioner Fred Steinbaum, a Gubernatorial appointee, began by wondering aloud how significant a problem an algae bloom posed for Lake Hopatcong, specifically to swimmers. Kerry Kirk Pflugh, representing the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, said testing done by the DEP and Princeton Hydro did confirm that one location showed toxic levels but that not all the blue-green algae (also known as Cyanobacteria) blooms found in the area were toxic.
According to Pflugh, blu-green algae occurs when there are excessive nutrients living in shallow, warm water with little circulation available. Crescent Cove, she said, is a prime location for such an event.
“It’s an unfortunate natural according circumstance,” said Pflugh who recommends that people stay away from these algae blooms, whether they are toxic or not.
Pflugh went on to say that septic systems leaching into lake water, over fertilization and lack of maintenance on storm water systems also contribute to these blue-green algae blooms.
Chairman Russ Felter, who is also the mayor of Jefferson Township, stated that Jefferson has put into motion steps to alleviate some of the man-made problems affecting the lake. He said the town has become pro-active in maintaining storm water systems throughout the township and most recently implemented a septic management program for property owners.
Felter also said that Jefferson would be selling an old vacuum truck to Hopatcong Borough, for a nominal fee, to help the borough clean out their storm water systems (catch basins). Felter said the truck is in need of some repair before it will be operational.
In the public portion of the meeting, Crescent Cove resident Willa Scantlebury presented two-weeks worth of photos of the blue-green algae surrounding her dock; seeking guidance and assistance from the state DEP, the commission and The Lake Hopatcong Foundation.

A series of photos, taken over a two-week period, shows a blue-green algae bloom in Crescent Cove.
A series of photos, taken over a two-week period, shows a blue-green algae bloom in Crescent Cove.

Scantlebury said she is worried the algae blooms would adversely affect fish, aquatic life and the overall health of the lake.
“What I’d like to see is a collaborative effort between the LHC, the LHF and the NJDEP,” she said. “Both these organizations (LHC and LHF) were established for the well being of the lake…well the lake is sick.”
Scantlebury urged the commission to join forces with the Foundation “to reach out to the state for help” and asked that both organizations develop “relationships with the lakeside municipalities and mayors and lobby for the lake at the state level.”
Both Felter and Pflugh took issue with Scantlebury’s accusation that the lake is sick.
“This lake is a lot healthier than ever before,” said Felter. “The water quality is much better. To say we’re letting the lake die is just not right.”
Pflugh agreed with Felter, saying the quality has “vastly” improved over the years but admitted there are still troubling areas, Crescent Cove being one.
“We’re making great strides,” said Pflugh who commended Scantlebury for calling the DEP to alert them of the bloom. Pflugh believes this health concern is very limited and not long lasting.
“This is an ongoing problem that happens every August. This is just the first year I found it was toxic,” said Scantlebury.
Dan Bello, who is in charge of the weed harvesting program for the DEP, reported that the parts needed for the two small harvesters and the second transport barge have been delivered and both machines would be in working order within two or three weeks.
Bello said he is looking to hire more experienced personnel, with the hopes of keeping some positions at part time through the winter. Bello also reported that a third fulltime employee has been requested for the 2015 season. The state is also looking to add volunteers to the program.
Roberto DiBernardini, a new resident in the East Shore Estates section of Jefferson raised concern over the weed harvesters being parked over night on the beach in front of his house. He is concerned the harvesters are unprotected and a danger to neighborhood kids who he said he witnessed climbing on the machines. Felter asked Bello to find another area to overnight the machines in that part of the lake.
The next Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting will be held Monday, September 15 at the Jefferson Municipal Building. The meeting begins at 7pm.

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