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Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in New Jersey’s Lake Communities: What can be done? Expert panel assembled for public forum

(Sparta, NJ) A panel of New Jersey’s leading experts on aquatic ecology, lake management and stormwater will make presentations and take questions from the audience on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at 7:30PM at Lake Mohawk Country Club in Sparta. The forum is open to the public and free, but pre-registration is required. The forum will also be streamed live on Facebook and viewers may pose questions using the Facebook comments feature.

The forum is hosted by the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation and jointly sponsored by the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC). 

The Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation is a local, all-volunteer, tax-exempt charitable organization.  “The Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation is proud to sponsor this event and we welcome this esteemed panel of experts to discuss this timely topic of concern to our local citizens as well as others in New Jersey whose precious lakes are at risk,” states Foundation President Bill Askin.  “Our mission is to enhance the water quality of the Wallkill River Watershed which has its headwaters at Lake Mohawk.” 

The panel of experts includes:

  • Stephen J. Souza, PhD. – (retired) Founding partner of Princeton Hydro, LLC; Owner, Clean Waters Consulting, LLC. Dr. Souza directed all of the aquatic ecology and water resource projects conducted by Princeton Hydro, having prepared management and guidance plans for over 300 lakes, ponds, rivers, estuaries and reservoirs located from Florida to Massachusetts. 
  • James F. Cosgrove, P.E. – founder of Omni Environmental Group LLC. Presently, Mr. Cosgrove is Member of National Society of Professional Engineers. Mr. Cosgrove is also on the board of Middlesex Water Co. and The New Jersey Clean Water Council and Member of The American Society of Civil Engineers, Member of Water Environment Federation, Member of American Water Resources Association and Vice President for Kleinfelder, Inc. 
  • Christopher C. Obropta, Ph.D., P.E. is the Extension Specialist in Water Resources with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and he is a Professor with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, Rutgers University. Dr. Obropta has a background in watershed management, water quality modeling, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, and coastal engineering.  His specific experience includes watershed restoration, onsite wastewater treatment system design and management, wasteload allocations and TMDL studies, stormwater management, wetland design, effluent dilution analyses, longshore sediment transport, computer-aided design, and geographic information systems (GIS).
  • Panel discussion moderated by Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters

“We are so pleased to have assembled such an impressive panel of New Jersey’s most respected scientists to help us find the most effective solutions to this great challenge,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, one of the forum’s sponsors, and who put the panel together. “People are understandably very emotional, and it is very important that we get past the politicization of this critical issue. We wanted to hear from the experts who understand the science, to help us find the solutions, so that if we work together we can succeed in restoring our lakes and the vitality of our communities.”

Every affected and potentially affected lake in northern New Jersey has unique circumstances, which may dictate the need for unique strategies in responding to HABs. For example, Lake Hopatcong has shores in four municipalities in two counties, whereas Greenwood Lake spans two states. Lake Mohawk, however, is entirely in Sparta Township and the lake is supported by a lake association that lake property owners are required to contribute to the costs of water quality management practices. 

“This summer we’ve heard of lake after lake being affected by toxic algal blooms, one after another,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “What this shows us is that with some lakes, it’s going to take more than one community to step up and make strides on an issue that is affecting multiple jurisdictions,” he continued.  “We call upon all of our elected officials to work together to tackle the serious challenges of developed lands—concrete and pavement—which are causing all this polluted runoff to enter the rivers, streams, and lakes which don’t follow municipal, county, or even state boundaries,” Potosnak explained.  “Together communities need to explore all of the possible avenues available to them in preventing HABs—unfortunately, until communities come together, we will continue to see the negative economic and recreational consequences,” Potosnak concluded.

“The science on these algae blooms is clear. People pollution is creating an environment for the algae to thrive. We’ve tipped the system out of balance and are feeding the algae too many nutrients. The good news is that people can also solve the problem. Those who live near waterbodies with a HAB problem should, in the short-term, stop fertilizing their lawns, fix any leaking septic systems. For a more holistic long-term fix, these communities would be well served to start talking about managing their polluted stormwater runoff in a healthier way. We cannot expect to continue polluting our lakes and streams without consequences,” said Jennifer M. Coffey, Executive Director Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC).

Registration is free at, search for HABs Public Forum, or go to: Tickets are limited to 275 guests. The forum will be streamed live on the New Jersey Highlands Coalition Facebook page. 

Lake Mohawk Country Club is located at 21 The Boardwalk, Sparta, NJ 07871

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