State senator denied information about closure of NJ lakes due to algae blooms

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A New Jersey state senator says that he was denied information about why certain lakes in New Jersey were closed this summer.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio says that businesses in his district suffered a financial loss this summer due to the no swimming advisories issued for several New Jersey lakes due to harmful algal blooms. The Republican says that he requested records about the decisions to close the lakes, but he says that the Murphy administration denied his requests.

“At the same time that New Jersey was telling people not to swim, New York was welcoming people to swim…There's something wrong with that,” Pennacchio says.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued monthslong advisories for the New Jersey side of Greenwood Lake in Passaic County and parts of Lake Hopatcong in Passaic and Morris counties. The blooms can cause skin rashes on swimmers and be harmful to pets.

“If the public safety really did come into their main thinking process, they should have no problems explaining themselves,” Pennacchio says. “Just show us the literature, show us the minutes of the meeting, show us the correspondence.”

RELATED: No swimming -- Harmful algae bloom found in another body of water in New Jersey 
RELATED: Sierra Club director explains science behind algae blooms and how to stop them 

The senator says that DEP officials told him that the agency was not required to disclose communications between state government agencies.

In a statement to New 12 New Jersey, a DEP spokesperson says, “The DEP is committed to transparency and using science to protect public health and the environment. The DEP's response and the records provided comply with the New Jersey Open Public Records Act."

Pennacchio says that he is unhappy with the response.

“The bottom line is, we asked them to tell us what their thinking was. Historically, this lake was never shut down, these lakes were never shut down for the time that they were. And they said ‘No,’” he says.

Pennacchio says the levels of bacteria in the water that led to an advisory are lower in New Jersey than just about anywhere else.

“There are 46 other states in the country that have levels that may not have shut these lakes and these waters down,” Pennacchio says. “Certainly not all of them. These are the questions we have to ask, and quite frankly, the people around those lakes deserve those answers.

The DEP's advisory for Lake Hopatcong remains in effect for all areas of the lake except Indian Harbor, Henderson Cove, Byram Cove and from Byram Bay to Halsey Island.

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