Most of the booms placed in Lake Hopatcong to contain an oil spill off Prospect Point are gone. Only a few remain at the site of the pipe that runs under Prospect Point Road, resident Lou Tarascio told the Lake Hopatcong Commission on Monday, March 12. He said he spoke to representatives of the contractor, who told him the booms will stay as long as oil is still seeping out of the rock. “There is shale,” Tarascio explained, noting that the oil would find narrow passages through the layered rock and continue to work its way into the lake.

When Tarascio walked up to the property of Valiant Contracting from his lakefront home, he saw two 1,000-gallon tanks and one 500-gallon tank for fuel oil. He said the company’s trucks now appear to be fueling at service stations.

Officials from Valiant told the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) there was a diesel spill from one of its fueling tanks about two weeks before the oil was found in the lake. They had removed the surface soil, but did not report the incident. Robert Tessier, who represents the state Department of Community Affairs on the Lake Hopatcong Commission, pointed out that the DEP keeps records of open spills.

Commissioner Fred Steinbaum said there have been two subsequent spills on the lake. One leak was from an above-ground tank on a residential lot, and the other was from a car involved in an accident in the state park. He stated that the DEP needs to notify the commission when something like that happens.

Hopatcong Mayor Michael Francis, who was at the meeting to discuss another issue, declined to comment on the oil spill because of pending litigation. Valiant is located in Hopatcong, although the spill reached the lake in Jefferson.

Hopatcong Mayor Michael Francis advocates for grass carp for weed control. (Photo: Jane Primerano)

Francis was at the meeting to update the commission on his proposal to bring grass carp into the lake for weed control. He had conferred with DEP representatives, who requested a formal proposal for a trial project to bring in the sterile carp to eat leafy weeds. Fred Lubnow of Princeton Hydro, the commission’s environmental consultant, will provide scientific data.

According to Francis, the trial project is expected to be in Crescent Cove, an enclosed area with many leafy weeds. Steinbaum said there should be a certain number of fish with radio chips so their location can be monitored, and the public must be fully aware of the project before it can begin.

Francis suggested keeping the number of fish low. “The only way we can get in trouble is by having too many fish,” said Martin Kane of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, who is working with Francis on the project.

Because grass carp are sterile, commissioners were skeptical of the necessity for a buffer to keep them from crossing over the dam. Game fish stocked in the lake go into the Musconetcong River to breed.

The commission will also talk to the public about ice eaters on the lake. The large bubblers are causing problems by leaving too much open water, so commissioners are planning to address citizen groups and otherwise spread the word that ice eaters must not create open water on neighboring properties. Ronald Smith, chair of the commission, reported that the chair of the Greenwood Lake Commission had called him for suggestions regarding ice eater problems on that lake.

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