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Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Urges NJDEP to Release Lake Closure Documents

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Letter to Commissioner Follows Denial of OPRA Request for Information Related to HAB Advisories for Lake Hopatcong & Greenwood Lake

Senator Joe Pennacchio sent a letter to the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) today urging the release of documents related to harmful algal bloom (HAB) advisories that closed Lake Hopatcong and other New Jersey waterways to recreation for much of the summer.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio sent a letter to the NJDEP urging the release of documents related to harmful algal bloom advisories that closed Lake Hopatcong and other New Jersey waterways to recreation for much of the summer. (SenateNJ.com)

In the letter to NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe, Pennacchio called for the release of documents that he sought through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request in August. The NJDEP denied the requested records, asserting they contain “deliberative material.”

“All of the impacted communities deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know if their lives and livelihoods were disrupted as a result of a legitimate public health concern or for politics,” Pennacchio said in the letter. “Put simply, the NJDEP’s ‘deliberations’ on this matter are precisely what the people of our lakeside communities deserve to know.”

In the letter, Pennacchio questioned why New Jersey has employed standards that seem unnecessarily stringent, highlighting significant differences between the standards employed by the NJDEP and those recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which McCabe once led, and the World Health Organization.

“It has been suggested that the ultimate goal of the advisories was not to protect public health but to strong-arm lakeside communities into creating new stormwater utilities, with additional taxes, as allowed under a law recently enacted by Governor Murphy,” Pennacchio wrote. “Absent the opportunity to review the documents that were denied me by your department, it is impossible to know why the lakes were really closed.”

Click here for a PDF of the letter.

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