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Lake Hopatcong Algae Bloom So Bad, Officials Warn Against Even Touching The Water

HOPATCONG, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - New Jersey environmental officials say people shouldn't swim in New Jersey's largest lake or even touch the water because of the presence of an extensive harmful algae bloom.

The warning issued Thursday also urged people to not eat fish caught in northern New Jersey's Lake Hopatcong or windsurf, kayak, paddleboard or ride Jet Skis there.

Pet owners should also keep their animals clear of the lake, reports CBS2's Cindy Hsu.

The lake is not closed, but water lovers need to be cautious.

Lake Hopatcong Algae Bloom
Algae bloom as of June 27, 2019, on Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey. (credit: CBS2)

Chopper2 was over Lake Hopatcong Thursday where officials say the harmful algae has formed in the water. Contact can lead to a range of health issues, everything from vomiting, nausea and blistering around the mouth. If you touch the blooms, you may get a skin rash.

The Department of Environmental Protection says the bloom stems from cyanobacteria, which are usually a bright green though they can also look like "pea soup" on the water's surface.

Robin Delorenzo lives on the lake and called the department after seeing lots of algae in the water on Monday.

"It was green, it was thick, it was almost like someone poured oil paint on top of the lake," she said, noting that days later it was worse.

"It was twice as bad as it was on Monday and the smell was almost rotten egg like," she said.

David Gedick of Lake's End Marina is on the water everyday, renting out boats. He says fear of the algae is killing his business.

"People are canceling because they're scared that if they sit out on the water, like we're doing on a boat, they're going to get deathly ill which is not the case," he said.

Glenda Hampton believes it's overkill. She says her and her dog Molly were kayaking on the lake this week and had no problems.

"She actually drank the water because we weren't aware of the advisory yet," saind Hampton. "She's not been sick.

"I don't think that there's a real danger, I really truly don't," she said.

While the department wants people to stop swimming in the lake, they say boating is OK as long as you don't get water on you - so no draping your feet off the side.

Heavy rainfall and storm-water, followed by warm weather are to blame.

Officials said the advisory could remain in place "for weeks, if not longer." They note several people have already gotten mild skin rashes from touching the water.

The department says it's received 30 more reports of blooms in the 4-square-mile lake which straddles the border of Sussex and Morris counties.

It is a popular vacation and tourist destination, with the July 4 holiday coming up.

The department is working through the Lake Hopatcong Commission to notify municipal governments and local health agencies of the advisory.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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