NEW JERSEY STRONG news Water Disasters – Trenton, NJ: Sierra Club NJ Taylor McFarland reports 8.13.2019 – In North Carolina, 3 dogs have died due to the same bacteria that has shut down swimming at several New Jersey lakes this summer. A NC resident brought her dogs to the lake to swim, shortly after they started to seize and died three hours later. The lake had blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

“There are consequences from having blue- green algae in our lakes here and in North Carolina. Unfortunately, in North Carolina, three dogs died after being exposed to water with cyanobacteria in it. This should be a warning to the state of New Jersey that what happened there could happen here. We may not have the same strain of algae, but we need to take this seriously. Cyanobacteria has been found in 8 New Jersey Lakes already like Lake Hopatcong, Greenwood Lake, Manasquan Reservoir, and many others,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “People need to follow DEP’s advisories that say you should not swim or touch the water. It can have serious consequences on humans but also to our pets and wildlife.”

State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio has challenged the need to close Lake Hopatcong and other New Jersey lakes because of recent toxic algae blooms. Pennacchio said New Jersey’s health standards for algae in water are too strict, especially in contrast with other states.  DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe wrote a recent OpEd piece for nj.com explaining the importance of issuing advisories for Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), which can cause severe skin rashes and other illnesses. She did not address what DEP should be doing to clean up the lake.

“Legislators like Senator Pennacchio are downplaying the severity of the conditions of our lakes an is putting people at risk by saying the state is unnecessarily closing Lake Hopatcong because of toxic algae. Commissioner McCabe needs to take her job more seriously and support the closing of lakes impacted by the algae. She should not be listening to Pennacchio and should do her job. If there are warnings, they need to be followed,” said Tittel. “What is happening in North Carolina are the consequences of not taking these advisories seriously. People who think the toxic algae bloom is just a warning should be taking more precaution. We should be playing politics with this.”

Last week, The Manasquan Reservoir succumbed to high levels of cyanobacteria that are above the NJ Health Advisory Guidance. The Manasquan Reservoir joins other lakes in New Jersey that have been impacted by cyanobacteria. On Monday Budd Lake Beach in Mount Olive was closed, and swimming was discouraged in nearby Lake Musconetcong. DEP’s latest tests  showed that Lake Hopatcong cyanobacteria levels were at 57250 cells/ml, this is a drop from last week’s tests when levels were at 63000 cells/ml. Greenwood Lake is still closed as well.

 “We need to take what happened in North Carolina very seriously and clean up our lakes. Conditions of our lakes are still bad, and the problem has been spreading. DEP have done nothing in terms of getting the lakes reopened, fixing the problem, and preventing this in the future. Instead of just monitoring the lakes, DEP could be treating the water in environmentally sound ways to reduce the algae. They need to establish stream buffers and enforce real Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) standards that limit pollutants in our lakes. We also need to reduce overdevelopment and sprawl in environmentally sensitive areas,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It’s not just about not being able to swim, potential effects can have serious and fatal impacts to our pets and wildlife.”