The sightings of the Blue-Green Algae continue to expand on Lake Hopatcong. with Hopatcong State Park now being closed to swimmers.
Our lake is no different than the other lakes and beaches in NJ, as this Blue-Green Algal has had the right ideal conditions over the last several weeks to form.
Where the Blue-Green Algae has been Sighted:
- Mount Arlinngton Beach
- Nolan’s Point
- Wildwood Shores
- Cow Tongue Point
- Pebble Beach (Byram Bay Beach)
- Sand Harbor Beach
Note: These areas keep expanding, so assume extreme caution on all areas of Lake Hopatcong until further notice.
Statewide Effort to “Avoid It and Report It” Includes Online Form for Reporting Suspected Blooms
Seeking to minimize health risks for people and animals, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has developed a strategy for a unified statewide approach in responding to incidents of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in freshwater bodies across the state.
Under the new “Avoid It and Report It” effort, anyone who sees a suspected bloom resulting from cyanobacteria may contact DEP through its toll-free hotline or the WARN NJDEP app for smartphones and tablets. In addition, a new website ( http://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/HABS.html) has been launched to coordinate important information and response activities. Alerting DEP to the suspected blooms quickly can help protect public and animal health and freshwater resources.
When a suspicious bloom is observed, people are advised to Avoid It and Report It by following these steps:
- Avoid contact with water in the vicinity of the bloom, especially in areas where the bloom is dense and forms scums;
- Do not drink or consume the water;
- Do not eat fish from the waterbody;
- Keep pets and livestock away from the water;
- Do not allow animals to drink the water, eat dried algae, or groom themselves after coming into contact with the water;
- People, pets and livestock that come into contact with a bloom should rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible;
- Seek medical attention or a veterinarian if a person or animal is experiencing adverse health effects after exposure to a bloom; and
- Report a suspected HAB by calling the DEP Hotline at 1-877-WARNDEP(927-6337) or send a mobile alert through the WARN NJDEP mobile app (available via iTunes, Google Play or Windows Phone).
Public Health Risks from Harmful Algal Blooms- Health and safety near the lake
By Dr. Jill Chasse: Every year there is some kind of “don’t go in the water,” warning that we in NJ see. It could be a shark sighted in Point Pleasant, jellyfish at Seaside or e.coli in Lake Hopatcong.
Heck, we even get kicked out of public pools if a toddler wanders in with a diaper. Water recreation is fun and refreshing, but when warnings aren’t heeded, it can become a nightmare.
In the past week, warnings have been published by the Sussex County Health Department. Several beaches in Hopatcong have been closed due to Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) in the water of Lake Hopatcong. The excessive growth, “bloom” identified in Lake Hopatcong are specifically cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae due to its color), microscopic organisms which produce dangerous toxins.
The water may appear to be beautiful, with cyan waves cascading through, but these toxins are harmful to both humans and animals. High concentrations, like those reported in several beach areas around the lake can cause severe stomach issues including intestinal infections that may lead to cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Cyanotoxins often produced by cyanobacteria can cause people to get headaches, skin or throat irritations, and various allergic responses.
So how do you stay safe and healthy in the water? You don’t. Obviously this means do not drink this toxic water, but it also means don’t wade in it, swim or even go on a raft or kayak since you’ll most likely get wet in these types of water vessels. Don’t even go fishing, because you’ll essentially be man-handling poison fish. Just stay away from the affected areas until the ban is lifted. Additionally, don’t hang out on the beaches near the contaminated water. A study conducted during a Florida red tide found that marine HAB toxins could be transported in the air almost 4 miles inland from the water source. This is a different type of HAB, but it is still possible to inhale the toxins, so the further away you are the better. It won’t last forever and it is better to be safe than sorry.
If you see any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor ASAP and tell him or her that you were exposed to cyanobacteria.
- skin irritation (itching, dermatitis, blisters)
- eye irritation (swelling, conjunctivitis, itching, sensitivity to light)
- weakness or muscle pain
- respiratory irritation (breathing issues, sore throat)
- abdominal pain
- if ingested, gastrointestinal issues can range from mild to severe including,nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
If you do notice any of these expose symptoms, as long as you’re on top of it, you should be okay. Not only are there significant testing options available to evaluate related or potential illnesses, such as serum glucose, urine and liver function tests, but there are also very simple treatments. Ingestion is typically treated with replenishing fluids and electrolytes just as if you had a stomach bug. At the most antihistamines and/or steroids can be prescribed for allergic reactions.
Remember to heed warnings of the local health departments and don’t try to disobey lifeguards or “do not enter” signs just because you want to take a swim.
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