HOPATCONG — The state is repeating its warning to stay out of Lake Hopatcong because of harmful algal bloom. And that's troubling to Mayor Mike Francis, who is worried that the situation may be "devastating" to both the local economy and the health of residents.

There have been more than 30 reports of harmful algal bloom at the North Jersey lake since June 17, including incidents of mild skin rashes. Exposure to HAB also may cause allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, respiratory irritation and eye irritation.

On Friday, state Department of Environmental Protection officials said the current bloom in the state's largest lake is the worst case in recent memory.

HAB occurs when cyanobacteria blooms produce a thick, bright green scum on the surface of the lake. It can also appear as “spilled paint” or “pea soup.” This appearance is often taken for granted as a normal algae bloom.

The DEP says HAB could be a result of recent heavy rainfall carrying nutrient-rich stormwater into the lake, followed by spans of warm weather.

The DEP began aerial surveillance of the lake Wednesday and will continue to monitor the lake until it is safe. That could take all summer.

In the meantime, the DEP warns against having any contact with the water.

"The borough of Hopatcong is the entire west shore of Lake Hopatcong," Francis said Saturday. "This is devastating to our town. We have marinas and restaurants and a lot of activity on the lake that brings in a lot of money to the state in taxes. What do I tell the people who have lakefront homes that pay huge taxes because of the value of their property? You can't use the lake that you pay so much money for."

The mayor said his first priority is the safety of residents, especially those on the lake who draft water for use in their homes. Borough officials will be going door to door with printed information from the county board of health explaining the health risks.

"I want to make sure nobody gets missed," Francis said.

Francis is also concerned about whether or not lake water is safe for use in firefighting. He's made the decision to err on the side of caution and use water from tankers.

Francis wants to work with the DEP and come up with a solution to the bloom growth that's more than a "band-aid" fix.

"We have to put a system in place to control the phosphorous from the runoff. I have a thousand storm drains in town. Maybe I have to put a filter on each one of them at a cost of $300 a piece," Francis said.

"The bandaid is 'don't go in the lake.' That was easy. But what can we do to preserve our industry?"

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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