Divers help clean up Lake Hopatcong during drawdown


The sun was attempting to peek out over Lake Hopatcong as six intrepid divers from Elite Divers in Randolph suited up to do their part in the lake clean-up. The Lake Hopatcong Foundation arranged for teams of volunteers to pull debris from the lowered lake on Sunday, Nov. 9, from 8 a.m. to noon. One of those teams dove off Dow’s Marina on Nolan’s Point Road, near the deepest part of the lake in an attempt to encounter the fewest weeds, according the Kirsten Holenstein of Rockaway. The air temperature was 41 degrees, making the water temperature in the high 50s or low 60s. Not exactly balmy for diving, as several of the divers commented.

Dennis Santos, the leader of the dive team brought 10 divers with him, some to go in the water and others to assist. This isn’t their first clean-up job.

“We cleaned Cook’s Pond in Denville in 2011 and got a thank-you letter from Gov. Christie,” he said.

None of the divers had ever been in Lake Hopatcong.

“Nobody dives Lake Hopatcong,’ Todd Gibson of Chester said, “no public access.”

Holenstein explained the Foundation obtained permission to dive from Dow’s where a boat ramp and stairs leading down to the lowered lake provided the best access.

Gibson was making his 167th dive with 70 minutes to go to have 100 hours underwater, but he was figuring on only a few minutes in the lake in November and had no desire to dive off the end of the point where the depth is around 54 feet.

“The regulator can freeze at 40 degrees,” he noted.

“I hope I find a treasure chest,” diver Chris Leanzo of Hackettstown joked as he pulled out a mesh bag for hauling trash back to the surface.

He and a few other divers expressed curiosity over what might be found in the deepest waters off the point.

Mike Knauer, an instructor and manager of the dive shop, who was sidelined after a broken leg, explained the divers are members of the Professional Assistance Diving Institute and never pass up an opportunity to do a cleanup.

While the divers were just starting their search, a group who picked up trash behind Fulton Bank in Landing had a pickup bed full of bags.

Two of the bags were full of recyclables, but the others had some interesting contents. A printer and the bulb holder for a fluorescent tube high-lighted the office debris. A traffic cone and one tire were more mundane.

A group of students from the Sussex and Warren County Community Colleges displayed the most unusual debris. Tyler Thurgood of Hope showed a plastic toy soldier and a fedora and said other clothing was found at Hopatcong State Park near the dam.

A total of 30 groups pulled trash from other places in the four towns around the lake. The DPWs from each town arranged for disposal. Tires, always found in large numbers, were collected at the park.



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