03/05/05 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
Lake panel urges care in selecting fertilizer

Signs ask buyers to avoid phosphorus-based products

By Rob Jennings, Daily Record


The Lake Hopatcong Commission, the four-year-old governing body for New Jersey's largest lake, will spend up to $800 on signs promoting "lake-friendly" fertilizers, officials said Friday.

Two different signs will be printed once officials award a contract, commission chairman Art Ondish said.

The first sign, which Home Depot and other stores have agreed to post, will read that "we sell lake-friendly fertilizers as recommended by the Lake Hopatcong Commission," Ondish said.

The second sign, to be placed at other locations, will read, "please use lake-friendly fertilizers," Ondish said.

Ondish, who is Mount Arlington's mayor, has been leading the 11-member commission since last year.

All four municipalities bordering Lake Hopatcong -- Jefferson, Roxbury, Mount Arlington and Hopatcong -- have ordinances barring the use of phosphorus-based fertilizers.

Phosphorus spurs weed growth, a particularly vexing problem at Lake Hopatcong. The commission was established in January 2001 in response to complaints about insufficient resources being allotted to weed harvesting.

The anti-phosphorus laws, though, are hard to enforce and rely on cooperation from homeowners, said Sam Hoagland of Hopatcong, a former lake commissioner who proposed the signs.

It was not immediately clear when the signs would be in place, but Ondish said it would be in time for spring yard work.

Hoagland, a seven-year resident who serves on Hopatcog's environmental commission and planning board, is enthusiastic about the project.

"I got pumped up about this. It's really a great thing," he said.

The ordinances in the four lakefront municipalities are wide-ranging, he said.

Hopatcong stipulates a warning for first offenses followed by fines of up to $100 for ensuing offenses, whereas Roxbury violators risk up to a 90-day jail term and $1,000 fine, Hoagland said.

Hoagland said he did not know of any instances where a homeowner was cited for illegally using a phosphorus-based fertilizer.