Client Spotlight: Lake Hopatcong Foundation

This month we are launching the first blog in our Client Spotlight Blog Series! Each spotlight will feature one of our important client relationships in order to give you an inside look at our collaboration. We pride ourselves on forming strong ties with organizations that share our values of creating a better future for people and our planet. So we are excited to be able to share snippets of the incredible teamwork we’ve been able to accomplish over the years!

At Princeton Hydro, we value our client relationships, as the collaborative work we are able to complete with organizations like the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) reaches exponentially further than anything we could complete alone. One of the reasons our organizations have such strong symmetry is that our values align and complement each other.

As their mission states,”Lake Hopatcong Foundation dedicates itself to protecting the lake environment and enhancing the lake experience, bringing together public and private resources to encourage a culture of sustainability and stewardship on and around New Jersey’s largest lake, for this and future generations.” We are so proud to help protect New Jersey’s largest lake with LHF.

We have been working with LHF since its inception in 2012, which is why we are excited to feature them in our first client spotlight blog. We spoke with Jessica Murphy, President/Executive Director of the Foundation, and Donna Macalle-Holly, Grants and Program Director, to give you an insider look at the organization:

Q: What makes the Lake Hopatcong Foundation unique?

A: The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is unique in that our mission spans a wide spectrum of activities. In addition to projects that focus on the lake environment, we also take on initiatives that support education, safety, community-building, recreation, and even arts and culture. The lake is split between two counties and four towns, so bringing the community together for all these things is very important to us, in addition to making sure the lake itself is healthy.

Q: What does the Lake Hopatcong Foundation value?

A: During our strategic planning process, the board and staff developed a list of values that we go back to when operating and making decisions. They are:

  • Collaboration – We operate in a way that brings people together throughout the community.
  • Action – We are committed to our mission, moving quickly to take on projects that have an impact on and around the lake.
  • Sustainability – We are forward-thinking when making decisions, taking future generations into account when considering projects and initiatives.
  • Warmth – We are a friendly face to the community, showing the best of ourselves and bringing out the best in the people of Lake Hopatcong.

Q: How long have you been working with Princeton Hydro?

The Lake Hopatcong Floating Classroom ready for take off!

When we first started the Lake Hopatcong Foundation in 2012, Dr. Fred Lubnow was kind enough to do a water quality presentation as one of our very first events as an organization! In the years since, we’ve worked closely with Princeton Hydro, particularly in a support role as they conduct business with the Lake Hopatcong Commission. The Lake Hopatcong Commission is a state entity created in 2001 through the Lake Hopatcong Protection Act dedicated to protecting the water quality of Lake Hopatcong and to preserve the natural, scenic, historical and recreational resources of the lake. LHF funded Princeton Hydro’s water quality monitoring during the years that the Commission ran out of money

Q: What types of services has Princeton Hydro provided to your organization?

A: In addition to water quality monitoring on the lake, Princeton Hydro has led volunteer training for us in our efforts to prevent the spread of invasive species and to teach local students in our spring field trip program. Dr. Lubnow has also worked alongside us in applying for grants and in providing insight and expertise for other environmental projects at the lake, including helping guide the installation of floating wetland islands, and helping our NJ Lakes Group to work with NJDEP on Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) policies. He even did a quick fact check on our children’s book, Lake Hopatcong Speaks Out, before we published it!

Q: Do you have a favorite or most memorable project we’ve worked on together?

Princeton Hydro’s Senior Project Manager, Christopher Mikolajczyk, CLM, presenting during a Water Scout training held by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.

A: The days that Chris Mikolajczyk spent teaching our volunteers about how to find and remove water chestnuts from the lake were a lot of fun, particularly because we were kayaking on the lake for it! And, also because the kayak we provided Chris was too small for him, and he had to scrunch in to fit, but he was a trouper and paddled on.

Q: What are some exciting things your organization is working on right now?

A: We are working closely with Princeton Hydro and LHC on a series of projects, funded through NJDEP grants, LHC, LHF, and local governments, that we hope will prevent and mitigate HABs on the lake. Those projects include aeration systems, phosphorus-locking technologies, and stormwater infrastructure upgrades. We’re excited to see how effective each can be. Also, on August 7 at 12:30, Dr. Lubnow will be presenting the Lake Hopatcong water quality monitoring project results at LHF’s “Thirst for Knowledge” lunch-and-learn webinar series, which was created to share information and discuss topics of interest to our lake community. To register for the free webinar, visit lakehopatcongfoundation.org.

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Q: What drives you to want to go to work every day?

A: All of us at Lake Hopatcong Foundation have a passion for this lake and want to see it protected; we have a love for the community that surrounds it, too. Jessica Murphy grew up on the lake, met her husband here, and now is raising her four children to love the lake, too. Donna Macalle-Holly also met her husband on Lake Hopatcong, lives on the lake, and has worked professionally to take care of it for nearly two decades. Everyone in our office has made memories on Lake Hopatcong and developed friendships with those who live and work here. Those personal connections fuel our passion for what we do.

Q: How can Princeton Hydro support you/your organization in the future?

A: Continue to be the incredible resource you are! We are so fortunate to have the deep knowledge and expertise that Fred and your entire team provide, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead.

Water Scouts paddling on Lake Hopatcong.


Some recent projects we are/have been working on with LHF include installing biochar bags to help control phosphorus levels and applying Phoslock to help mitigate harmful algal blooms! Because of our history working on Lake Hopatcong, we too have gained a passion for protecting and maintaining this lake. This incredibly important work could not be done without the genuine devotion and dedication from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. We look forward to continuing great work with this incredible group!

Using an Ancient Technology in a New Way: Preventing Algal Growth with Biochar

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

The use of biochar, a pure carbon, charcoal-like substance made from organic material, to enhance soil fertility is thought to have originated over 2,000 years ago in the Brazilian Amazon. Archeological studies indicate populations of native Amazonians used biochar to amend nutrient-poor soils to increase agricultural productivity.

Biochar is generally produced through a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the decomposition of organic matter brought about by high temperatures (typically 800°F) in an environment with limited oxygen. The word pyrolysis is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro “fire” and lysis “separating.”

Recently, biochar has received tremendous attention and its usage has moved beyond traditional agricultural and landscaping soil amendment applications. It is being championed as a useful technique for soil restoration, carbon sequestration, and – the one we’re most excited about – water quality management.

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

That’s right! Biochar has been shown to improve water quality by removing dissolved phosphorus from fresh waterbodies limiting algal growth and reducing the likelihood of harmful algae blooms (HABs).

Biochar can be placed in floatation balls, cages, or sacks, which are then tethered along the shoreline and in critical locations throughout the waterbody, like where an inlet enters a lake.

The benefits of biochar far outweigh the relatively low-cost investment. In addition to phosphorus removal and algal growth prevention, once the biochar’s capacity to absorb phosphorus has been exhausted, it can be re-purposed as compost for soil enrichment.

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Photo by: Colleen Lyons of the Lake Hopatcong Commission

Princeton Hydro recently installed biochar flotation bags in various locations throughout Lake Hopatcong, including the Lake Winona outlet, the Lake Forest Yacht Club inlet, Lakeside Avenue and Holiday Avenue inlet in Hopatcong, and the Edith Decker School outlet in Mount Arlington.

The biochar bag installation, which was funded by the NJDEP Freshwater HABs Prevention & Management Grant provided to the Lake Hopatcong Commission (LHC) and its project partner the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF), is one part of a multi-pronged lake management plan that aims to prevent the development of HABs and protect the overall water quality of Lake Hopatcong. Last summer, Lake Hopatcong – along with freshwater lakes throughout the country – was hit hard by a HAB outbreak that caused beach closures, health advisories, and water quality degradation.

Princeton Hyrdo has been working with the LHC, LHF, Morris & Sussex Countys, and local municipalities to implement a number of lake management strategies, including the recent dispersal of Phoslock, a different type of HAB-battling material, in Landing Cove, which was the largest application of Phoslock ever completed in the Northeast. Read more about it in our recent blog:

Mitigating Harmful Algal Blooms at Lake Hopatcong: Largest Application of Phoslock in Northeast

The team also installed Floating Wetland Islands, which use a mix of microbes and native plants to remove excess algae-causing nutrients from the water, in different areas of Lake Hopatcong.

Over the coming weeks, our team is installing more biochar bags in Roxbury, NJ at Duck Pond and in Mount Arlington, NJ at Memorial Pond. Stay tuned for more info! To learn more about our water quality management services, go here: bit.ly/pondlake.

Mitigating Harmful Algal Blooms at Lake Hopatcong: Largest Application of Phoslock in Northeast

To prevent harmful algal blooms (HABs) in New Jersey’s largest lake, a clay-based nutrient inactivating technology called Phoslock, is being applied in Lake Hopatcong this week. This is the largest Phoslock treatment to occur in the Northeastern U.S. The Phoslock treatment, which is happening in the southern end of the lake called Landing Channel, is expected to take approximately one week depending on the weather conditions.

Over the course of the 2019 summer season, Lake Hopatcong suffered from large-scale and persistent HABs causing local and county health agencies to close off all beaches and issue advisories over large sections of the lake. These unprecedented conditions had significant negative impacts on the ecological, recreational, and economic resources of the lake and region. In order to combat HABs in this upcoming 2020 summer season, the Lake Hopatcong Commission has partnered with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, four municipalities (Jefferson, Hopatcong, Mt. Arlington, and Roxbury), two counties (Morris and Sussex), and their environmental consultant, Princeton Hydro, to develop both short- and long-term lake management strategies.

“The negative effects of HABs in our lake last year were numerous, widespread, and in some cases devastating,” recalled Donna Macalle-Holly of Lake Hopatcong Foundation. “It is imperative for every stakeholder to pool our resources to keep it from happening again. Collaboration is the only way to protect public health, as well as the health of New Jersey’s largest lake.”

In an effort to evaluate a variety of innovative in-lake and watershed-based measures to prevent, mitigate, and/or control harmful algal blooms in Lake Hopatcong, the Lake Hopatcong Commission was awarded a $500k grant as part of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) new $13.5M initiative to reduce and prevent future harmful algal blooms in New Jersey. In addition to the $500k grant, the aforementioned local government and nonprofit stakeholders provided $330k in matching funds to implement and evaluate a variety of ways to address HABs in Lake Hopatcong.

“Our lake community cannot sustain another year like 2019,” said Lake Hopatcong Commission Chairman Ron Smith. “Since the news of our grant award in early March, we have been working with our partners to make sure the projects are implemented in time for the 2020 season.”

This week, the water resource engineering and natural resource management firm, Princeton Hydro—a lake management consultant to Lake Hopatcong for over two decades—is implementing the first and largest innovative measure as part of the NJDEP HABs grant-funded project. This involves treating 50 acres of the southern end of the lake with Phoslock, a clay-based product that inactivates phosphorus in both the water column and the sediments, making this critical nutrient unavailable for algal growth. The Phoslock treatment, which requires proper permitting by NJDEP, is applied as a slurry and will be distributed from a boat. The slurry will temporarily make the water appear turbid, but should disperse approximately two to six hours after each treatment.

“We are expecting the Phoslock treatment to limit the growth of algae and therefore reduce the occurrence of harmful algal blooms in the lake this summer, keeping it open for recreation and business,” said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Resources at Princeton Hydro and leading HABs expert. “If this technology is deemed successful and cost-effective in Lake Hopatcong, we could set the precedent for large-scale HABs prevention in other lakes throughout New Jersey, and even across the nation.”

Developed by the Australian national science agency CSIRO, Phoslock is frequently used to strip the water column of dissolved phosphorus, as well as to inactivate phosphorus generated from deep, anoxic sediments. Recently, at a smaller scale, it has been shown to inactivate the mobilization of phosphorus from shallow sediments where there is a mobilization of phosphorus from both chemical and biological processes.

Algae uses phosphate, the biologically available form of phosphorus, as a food source to grow. When there is an excessive amount of phosphorus in a lake, algal growth can be dense and can negatively affect water quality. This excessive plant growth, caused by eutrophication, can both cause a lack of oxygen available, leading to fish kills, as well as produce harmful algal blooms with cyanotoxins, which are harmful to humans and pets.

Photo credit: SePRO Corporation

After Phoslock is applied, it sinks through the water column, binding phosphate as it moves towards the sediment. Once settled at the bottom of the lake, it forms a very thin layer and continues to bind phosphate released from the sediment, thus controlling the release of phosphorus into the lake. One pound of phosphorus has the potential to generate up to 1,100 lbs of wet algae biomass. However, 1.1 tons of Phoslock is capable of removing 24 pounds of phosphorus — that’s over 26,000 lbs of wet algae biomass not growing in the lake for every 1.1 ton of Phoslock applied. In turn, Phoslock’s ability to suspend biologically available phosphorus is therefore a major step towards improving a lake’s water quality.

As part of the NJDEP HABs grant funding, the stakeholder group will be evaluating the relative effectiveness of this treatment strategy. Because of its shallow depth and separation from the main lake, the Landing Channel area was a good candidate for evaluation of this technology. Princeton Hydro will conduct pre- and post-treatment monitoring of the Phoslock treatment area in order to conduct an objective evaluation of the cost effectiveness of the treatment as a means of preventing the development and/or mitigation of HABs. If the study indicates that Phoslock is a cost-effective treatment, the Lake Hopatcong Commission may consider additional trials in other sections of the lake, if funding is available.

To learn more about HABs, check out our recent blog:

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms