As of Tuesday, July 7, no harmful algal blooms have been found in Lake Hopatcong.

Fred Lubnow of PrincetonHydro, environmental consultant to the Lake Hopatcong Commission, said from the weather conditions so far this season, he is cautiously optimistic about HABs for this summer.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched an interactive map on its website on Tuesday, June 23, to enable residents to find testing site results with just a mouse-click.

The DEP also created a sliding scale and a color-coded chart of cyanotoxin measurement, from green for no toxins to black for a dangerous level. The sliding scale will eliminate confusion that led to people believing the lake was completely closed last summer, the DEP promised.

Actual cyanotoxin sampling will not begin on the lake this week, according to Lubnow.

PrincetonHydro sampled for phosphorous and plankton in Landing Channel last week  and will have that data soon, Lubnow said.

The sampling came a week after PrincetonHydro treated Landing Channel with Phoslock, a treatment to keep phosphorous from exiting the soil into the lake water.

Phoslock was the first innovative treatment undertaken under a $500,000 state grant for prevention and mitigation of cyanotoxins. The funding is part of money promised to the state’s fresh water stewards by Governor Phil Murphy on his only visit to the lake last year.

The second area of the lake treated for Phoslock was Ashley Cove. However, Lubnow said, PrincetonHydro had to do a green clean to remove matted algae before Phoslock can be applied.

Green clean is a non-copper-based treatment for matted algae which builds up in the shallow cove.

“Ashley Cove is shallow, there is not much flushing of the water,” Lubnow said. This causes heavy mat algae.

Lubnow explained that they tried to install a large storm-water structure for the cove, but it was difficult because of other utilities in the area.

A PrincetonHydro crew was surveying around Liffy Island last week, Lubnow said.

The second innovative treatment being tried under the grant is biochar which absorbs the phosphorus. Biochar is a woody material that demonstrates a “high affinity for a variety of pollutants, including phosphorus,” commission administrator Colleen Lyons wrote in a memo to the commission.

It is placed in floatation balls or cages and tethered along a beach area or where an inlet enters the lake. In the memo, Lyons said it has been shown to enter near shore waters to limit algal growth. She noted it is a low cost option for phosphorus removal and can be composted after exhausting its capacity for absorption. The phosphorus does not leach back into the water and it is a good compost because plant roots grow into the material and uptake phosphorus directly.

Biochar was used at the Lake Winona outlet, the Lake Forest Yacht Club, Lakeside Cove, and Holiday Avenue near Ingraham Cove in Hopatcong and the stream near Edith Decker School in Mount Arlington.

Two more installations will be in the managed drainage structures in Jefferson and in Duck Pond in Roxbury and Memorial Pond in Mount Arlington. The municipal Departments of Public Works are assisting with the biochar project as part of the municipal match to the grant.

Permanent Solution

When Murphy visited the lake, he held a meeting with federal, state, and local officials at the Lake Hopatcong Station. State Senators Anthony Bucco (R-25), Steve Oroho (R-24) and Joe Pennachcio (R-26) called for a permanent source of funding for the lake.

While not getting permanent funding, the foundation received the half million dollars plus $25,000 matches from each Morris and Sussex counties and $15,000 in in-kind services from the municipalities that surround the lake.

Murphy promised a total of $13.5 million in state and federal money. Congress members Josh Gottheimer (D-5), Mikie Sherill (D-11) and Tom Malinowski (D-7) all attended the meeting at the lake and promised the money would come to New Jersey in spite of cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Local Efforts

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation entered into a partnership with Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program to offer rebates of up to $450 to homeowners for building rain gardens or shoreline buffers to stop soil erosion into the lake. Since the soil contains phosphorus, this could help ameliorate phosphorus-fueled cyanotoxins.

Lakefront homeowners were offered free online workshops on creating rain gardens or buffers and an optional follow-up rain garden design session with Rutgers landscape professionals.

According to its website, the Foundation’s goal is to install at least 16 gardens over the next two years.

Donna Macalle-Holly of the Foundation said 60 people attended the two online workshops.

In Hopatcong, Mayor Mike Francis has instituted a demonstration aeration project in Crescent Cove, another shallow section of the lake with notorious problems.

The system being installed in Crescent Cove is a bottom-diffused aeration system, one of three types being tested at various lakes around the state. Francis said the Lake Commission can determine which of these offers the best long- and short-term solutions. He noted it would be a couple of years for these projects to be ready to evaluate.

Francis also secured funding to install sanity sewers on Hudson Avenue, one of the few areas of the borough not sewered in a major project 30 years ago. Connecting these 40 homes on the north side of Crescent Cove to the sewer system should improve water quality in the cove, Francis said. He said blasting will not be necessary to install the sewers, but a good deal of jack-hammer work will be.


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