The algal blooms began in early June, and the state advisory against swimming has been in effect ever since. This is not the first harmful algal bloom to hit the lake, but it is the largest and the first time in history the entire lake has been impacted. It also will not be the last time we face this crisis unless we get the state to embrace its responsibility to care for this state-owned asset.
Although the state created the Lake Hopatcong Commission in 2001 to oversee and manage the waterway, little money has followed and the current annual allotment of $500,000 is woefully inadequate to deal with the stormwater run-off, failing septic systems and other pollution problems creating the blooms.
I have drafted legislation that would raise the annual aid for the lake from $500,000 to $4 million, which experts estimate is the minimum needed to maintain the lake. We are still waiting for the Office of Legislative Services to assign a number to the bill so it can be formally introduced, but we can still urge state officials to take fast action on it.
Please find their contact information in the What We Can Do section of this newsletter.
Because failing septic systems are a major concern around the lake, I also have proposed legislation requiring the state to install sewers to service homes and businesses in Jefferson Township and Hopatcong abutting the lake, much as the state did in the 1990s for properties in the Mount Arlington and Roxbury sections of the lake.
In the alternative, under my bill, the state could subsidize the cost of homeowners and businesses to more frequently pump out the effluent in their septic systems to better prevent pollutants from entering Lake Hopatcong.