Opinion: Those nasty, toxic algae blooms in our lakes would vanish if towns use the tool Trenton gave them

Algae, cyanobacteria

JULIA SOMERS / STAR-LEDGER – Lake Hopatcong is New Jersey’s largest lake, one of many tucked into the famed and scenic Highlands. It’s a glorious spot beloved by the people who live, visit and vacation there, including the tourists who flee to their summer rental homes, spending the money that supports the local economy. However, this summer was a different story — a massive and lingering Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) affected lake waters nearly all season, significantly limiting recreational access. A primary culprit was stormwater runoff.

As rain runs off hard or compacted surfaces such as parking lots and lawns, it takes with it contaminants, carried by streams or pipes, mixing with other pollutants and sediments, becoming a nutrient-filled cocktail with high levels of phosphorus draining into the lake, creating conditions perfect for HABs to thrive. This summer’s Lake Hopatcong HAB has been called the worst on record — advisories closed beaches and recommended no swimming, fishing, or water contact …

Julia Somers is the executive director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

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