Grants awarded to clean storm water; big project slated for Lake Hopatcong
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Thursday, April 7, 2005


The state Wednesday awarded $3.6 million for 11 projects intended to clean up storm-sewer water before it is discharged into streams and lakes.

The biggest project is set for Lake Hopatcong, the state's largest body of fresh water, which lies in a high valley between Sussex and Morris counties and is a magnet for phosphorus runoff from fertilized yards. The project is to put sand filters in the largest of the storm drains around the lake, in the towns of Hopatcong and Jefferson. The state Department of Environmental Protection awarded $844,500 for this project.

Lake Hopatcong is the only active large project being funded in North Jersey. However, funds are being provided for studies of six other runoff problems: William Paterson University in Wayne is getting $408,586 to plan a filter system for storm water draining into Preakness Brook; the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group is getting two grants, $168,850 and $138,050, to plan projects at Papakating Creek and Clove Acres Lake; Vernon is getting $385,674 to plan a storm water system for Black Creek; Mount Olive is getting $393,994 to plan a project at Budd Lake; and the Rockaway Rover Watershed Cabinet is getting $201,000 to plan a project at Hurd Park in Dover.

The Lake Hopatcong Commission's chairman, Art Ondish, was jubilant Wednesday: "This is great for the lake. I'm very pleased."

Ondish, who also is mayor of Mount Arlington, added, "Everybody needs this money, so we were fortunate to be considered as providing the most bang for the buck. The ultimate goal is to improve water quality, so this is just good all the way around."

The money comes from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which was authorized in 1987 to fund projects to reduce what is called "non-point source pollution," which means runoff into storm sewers or directly into streams or lakes. The state DEP, however, chooses the projects. The one-time grants are not renewable.

Bradley M. Campbell, DEP commissioner, pointed out that not only will pollution be reduced, so will flooding: "Recent flood costs in New Jersey are estimated to be about $30 million. By maintaining and restoring natural buffers and managing runoff ... we can protect stream corridors and reduce the potential for flooding of the state's rivers."

Lake Hopatcong is surrounded by onetime summer cabins now turned into year-round homes. Runoff from yards and streets isn't the only problem: With small septic tanks groaning or failing outright under the load of permanent residency, sanitary sewage also gets into the lake, which has long been studied for its pollution.

Lake Hopatcong is surrounded by four towns. In 1992 Roxbury became the first of the four to hook up a sanitary sewer system, and in 1996 Mount Arlington followed. Hopatcong Borough began a large sanitary sewer project two years ago. Jefferson, however, has yet to begin such a project.