Highland Lakes

Country Club and Community Association

Questions About Algae, Beach 5 Closure and Lake Treatment Protocol?

By now you may have heard of the recent closure of Beach 5, on Lake 4 (Upper East Highland Lake). Many of you may have called or emailed your Trustee, the General Manager or Club office to ask questions or express concern about lake conditions.  While we try to respond to every inquiry we receive, the truth is that the calls and emails are quite repetitive and place a strain on time and resources when providing the same answers again and again. So that which follows is a summary of answers to the most common questions we have received.

Q: What causes “bad” lake conditions such as algae and green water?

A: The leading causes are excess nutrients in the water, higher than normal temperatures and bright sunny days. Excess nutrients occur naturally and because of human activity. For example, rainwater runoff washes organic compounds and minerals into the lakes and streams from the surrounding lands. But this same runoff also carries with it your grass clippings, lawn and garden fertilizers, detergents, and seepage from poorly operating septic systems. When excess nutrients combine with warm sunny weather algae blooms often occur.

Q: Why was Beach 5 closed and when will it reopen?

A: Algae cell count results reported on June 9th indicated elevated levels of specific types of algae known to have the potential of creating HABs. The beach was closed because the cell counts exceeded the NJDEP recommended advisory level. Follow up tests conducted on Monday, July  12th showed that the level was lower, but not yet below the recommended NJDEP threshold for reopening. Treatment is scheduled Thursday, July 15th and will be followed by another cell count sample on Friday. Beach 5 will be reopened only after 2 successive samples indicate that the blue-green algae cell counts are below the recommended threshold.

Q: Should I be concerned about all the algae I see in/on the lakes?  Is it all harmful?

A: No.  In fact, most algae are harmless and amount to nothing more than an unsightly and sometime smelly nuisance. However, cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are naturally present in lakes and streams and can form both toxic (harmful) and non-toxic blooms. Cyanobacteria, are responsible for the majority of freshwater HAB occurrences. Microscopic and chemical analysis are required to positively confirm the existence of a HAB.

Q: What is the Club doing to treat and control algae and the health of our lakes?

A: First, there is no foolproof method to prevent HABs short of sterilizing the entire lake with chlorine or similar compounds, effectively killing all aquatic life, and turning it into a swimming pool. The Club employs two well-qualified firms; Princeton Hydro, which performs inspections, water quality monitoring and analysis, and Solitude Lake Management, which also performs inspections and is responsible for application of appropriate chemical and organic compounds for lake treatment when needed. From Spring to Fall, both Princeton Hydro and Solitude visit each lake two or more times each month to inspect and sample the waters, provide narrative reports, and update lab test results

The information above should answer the most common questions and concerns regarding the health and overall condition of our lakes and our lake management efforts. If you would like more information on HABs, we urge you to visit the NJDEP HAB website at https://www.nj.gov/dep/hab/. Thank you.

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