(CBS News) — New Jersey environmental officials say people shouldn’t swim in New Jersey’s largest lake or even touch the water because aerial surveillance confirms the presence of an extensive harmful algae bloom. On Thursday, CBS New York’s Chopper2 was over northern New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong, where cyanobacteria has formed in the water.
The warning issued Thursday also urged people to not eat fish caught in northern New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong or windsurf, kayak, paddleboard or ride Jet Skis there. Pet owners should also keep their animals clear of the lake.
Officials said the advisory could remain in place “for weeks, if not longer.” They note several people have already gotten mild skin rashes from touching the water.
The Department of Environmental Protection says the bloom stems from cyanobacteria, which are usually a bright green. CBS New York reports that they can also appear as spilled paint, “pea soup,” or as having a thick coating or “mat” on the surface. These blooms can often be confused for typical algae blooms.
Exposure can cause a range of health effects, including rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, respiratory irritation, skin rashes and eye irritation.
People along the lake began reporting blooms on June 17. Since then the department says it’s received 30 more reports of blooms in the 4-square-mile lake which straddles the border of Sussex and Morris counties.
It is a popular vacation and tourist destination, with the July 4 holiday coming up.
The department is working through the Lake Hopatcong Commission to notify municipal governments and local health agencies of the advisory.