NEW JERSEY – The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is working with the State Police to investigate vandalism to harmful algal bloom monitoring buoys in several northern New Jersey lakes, specifically the detaching of buoys from anchor lines, according to Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette.
“These buoys gather water quality data used to warn the public about harmful algal bloom conditions and improve our long-term understanding of these blooms,” LaTourette said. “When someone cuts a buoy free, they are jeopardizing this work and placing boaters, personal watercraft users and other recreational users of the lakes at risk of injury.”
“State Police marine and land-based units have stepped up patrols in the areas of these buoys and we will criminally charge anyone caught tampering with them to the full extent of the law,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We are asking for the public’s help in putting a stop to this.”
“I am disappointed to learn of the recent vandalism to the monitoring buoys,” said 25th Legislative District Senator Anthony M. Bucco. “Preserving the quality of the water in these lakes is critically important for recreation and the businesses that surround our lake communities. These buoys are an important part of that process. I encourage anyone with information regarding the intentional destruction of these devices to report it to the local authorities or the State Police.”
“As Mayors of the Lake Hopatcong communities, we have worked very hard over the last few years and partnered successfully with the NJDEP since the original harmful algal bloom in 2019, said Jefferson Township Mayor Eric F. Wilsusen. “Monitoring the lake and communicating with the public about water quality issues concerning a potential harmful algal bloom is vital to all to best utilize this valuable resource. Whoever intentionally vandalized the harmful algal bloom monitoring buoys does not have our lake’s best interest in mind and is doing a disservice to the community.”
Since June of this year, there have been two incidents at Lake Hopatcong, one at Greenwood Lake, and one, most recently, at Spruce Run Reservoir, around the Fourth of July weekend. There were also two incidents at Lake Hopatcong last summer. In each case, the buoys were recovered.
In addition, there have been three incidents of damage likely resulting from boats hitting the buoys unintentionally. The DEP reminds the boating public to be alert to the presence of the buoys. The perimeter of each buoy is marked by safety buoys.
Anyone with information about these incidents or sees suspicious behavior is urged to contact the state police at 609-882-2000 or the DEP’s hotline at 877-WARNDEP (877-927-6337).
The DEP maintains a network of high-tech real-time monitoring buoys as part of a comprehensive response to harmful algal blooms to protect public health and tourism. They gather a wide range of water quality data, including phycocyanin pigments that are indicative of harmful algal blooms, turbidity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, temperature, chlorophyll and pH.
A growing global problem due to climate change, harmful algal blooms are not caused by true algae but rather by cyanobacteria that in many ways resemble and behave like algae. These cyanobacteria naturally occur in fresh water and can proliferate to unhealthful levels in sunlight and hot weather, forming dense mats resembling pea soup or spilled paint.
Exposure to cyanobacteria cells can cause a range of mild to moderate health effects, including rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, respiratory irritation and eye irritation. Incidental ingestion of water containing the toxins these bacteria can produce, known as cyanotoxins, can result in more serious health effects such as liver toxicity and neurological effects. Children and pets are more vulnerable because they ingest more water in relation to their size.
For more information on harmful algal blooms and the state’s interactive harmful algal bloom mapping tool, click here.