Expanded street sweeping and storm drain inspection and cleaning projects will take place on county roads around Lake Hopatcong, as part of a coordinated effort with lake towns to improve the lake’s health, according to the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
While the county already has an existing street and storm basin program, it has moved crews into place this week to intensify efforts to reduce potentially bacteria-causing runoff into the lake.
Added street sweeping currently is underway to capture street, lawn, and car runoff products from county roads that circle the lake to keep those materials from washing into the water during the next rain event.
At the same time, extra inspections of about 140 storm basins on county roads have begun, with debris clean-outs of those drains planned in the very near future.
“We are trying to do our part to get this great lake back to full health, to help get it reopened for full recreational activities this season,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Stephen Shaw. “We believe that our enhanced efforts – doubling up on what we already do – in coordination with the work of the lake towns, can make a difference, and we also urge the state to also take a more active role in getting the state’s largest lake back to full health.’’
“I want to commend the Freeholder Board and especially Freeholder Shaw for agreeing to increase the street sweeping and storm drain inspection and cleaning process. This effort by Morris County to improve the quality of Lake Hopatcong should be a model for the rest of the state, and I encourage the State of New Jersey to redouble its efforts in the clean-up,” said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco.
“While each level of government already has an aggressive schedule, accelerating the process at this time is a necessary measure that is well worth the effort. We cannot simply sit back and wait for nature to take its course,” he added.
County roads surrounding Lake Hopatcong include Lakeside Boulevard, Mt. Arlington Boulevard, Windermere Avenue, Altenbrand Road, Howard Boulevard, and Espanong Road (county routes 615, 616, and 631).
County road crews currently sweep those roads twice a year, and more if needed, mostly to remove sand, grit, and rocks that can wash into the lake.
They also vacuum storm drains about twice a year for normal maintenance, but return more frequently to clear drains that fill with debris.
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last month advised against swimming in or contact with Lake Hopatcong water due to an extensive Harmful Algal Bloom, or HAB. However, boating and other forms of non-contact recreation are not considered a health risk.
The DEP said Lake Hopatcong is experiencing cyanobacteria blooms, possibly the result of heavy rain carrying nutrient-laden stormwater into the lake, followed by warm weather.
Exposure can cause a range of health effects, including rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, and eye irritation.
The DEP is taking twice-weekly water samples of the lake and, along with the U.S. Geological Survey, has deployed real-time monitoring buoys to help assess when the lake is safe again for all recreation.
As a result of the testing, the DEP’s advisory has been lifted for the Indian Harbor area in the northeast section of the lake.