Monday, May 9, 2016

Environmental Writing 2016



Ramapo College, April 2016   (photo: Jan Barry)


“Pilgrim Pipeline Debate Flares in Towns along Proposed Route”

“Indian Point Power Plant Leak Sets off State Alarms”

“Water Crisis in Newark Opens Up Widespread Lead Pollution Problem”

“Is Lack of Connection to Nature Harming Our Children?”

“Honeybees: Campaigning for the Creatures Who Help Feed Us”

These are just some of the timely and essential ecological issues that 10 student-reporters at Ramapo College of New Jersey explored in the Spring 2016 Environmental Writing class. This flowering of feature story projects is posted on our class website, ramapolookout.blogspot.com.

Also posted is a wide array of eco-themed assignments throughout the semester, from assessments of Rachel Carson’s historic expose of chemical pesticide and herbicide poisoning in Silent Spring, to profiles of North Jersey environmental reporter Scott Fallon of The Record and Secaucus Environmental Director (and Ramapo College alum) Amanda Nesheiwat, plus explorations of other current issues in the Ramapo River watershed and beyond discussed by a number of other distinguished guest speakers. Take a look at how students viewed these vistas.

"We should be grateful for reporters who work to inform the community about undisputable facts that could lead to health risks in their own backyards. The public has a right to know who was responsible for the poisoning of their water, soil and air." --Jonathan Sanzari, in "Environmental Reporters Shine Light on Environmental Injustice"

"One aspect of Professor [Howard] Horowitz’s visit that really intrigued me were his poetry maps. The poetry maps shared were 'Idaho' ... and 'Manhattan,' which appeared in The New York Times. Poetry maps, for those who don’t know, are exactly what you would think. The poem is shaped as a map of the chosen area, and each landmark can be found in the poem where it would be found on any regular map...

“'Manhattan' is read as if the reader is taking a trip through the city. That’s the beauty of these poems. They take you on a trip through an area. Of course, there is an advantage to knowing the area, where you can see in your mind all the places mentioned. The works can still be enjoyed by anyone, as Professor Horowitz is so descriptive as he takes readers on such a beautiful walk." --Marissa Erdelyi, in "Maps, Poems and Environmental Writing"

"I believe it to be a common misconception that change can only be enacted from huge sources such as national non-profit organizations. But, in reality, change must be localized, as Dr. Chuck Stead of Ramapo College, frequently tells his students. His recommendation for those wishing to make change is to start at the most local level possible. Perhaps by going to a town hall meeting in your own town." --Melanie Schuck, in "Change Campaigns Start Local"

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pilgrim Pipeline Debate Flares in Towns along Proposed Route


Chathamborough.org


By Jonathan Sanzari


Residents of the small suburban town of Pequannock, NJ have been quite vocal in opposing the plan for the Pilgrim pipeline.

Talk of the proposed 178-mile-long pipeline has been a reoccurring matter at town meetings. Many residents have called for the municipal council to file an ordinance against the pipeline. However, it isn’t the only town debating about fighting against the Pilgrim pipeline. The $1 billion pipeline would stretch from Albany, New York to Linden, New Jersey to transport Bakken oil from North Dakota.

The proposed pipeline would run through five New Jersey counties and five New York counties, cutting through forests and river corridors, highway shoulders and backyards in more than 50 municipalities.

The plan for the Pilgrim pipeline was made public in October 2014 and the first public presentation was on Oct. 21 in the Kinnelon Municipal Courthouse. It stirred up a town-wide debate.

“I’ve worked with gas companies and performed leak tests on pressurized petrochemical systems for a few years and leaks are inevitable to the designs,” David Young, 22, a Pequannock resident and chemical engineer for CB&I, said in an interview.

“There’s acceptable leak specifications and requirements but leaks occur nonetheless at any and all fittings and flanges because molecules in the pipelines can be smaller than the threads used,” he added.

Survey: Americans Favor Move to Renewable Energy

The Energy Initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a survey over the course of ten years that got views from Americans’ about energy usage. The outcome of the survey was that American’s would like to move away from using fossil fuels and focus more on incorporating renewable technology. The proposal of the Pilgrim pipeline shows that there are no indications of relying solely on renewable technology just yet.

The survey’s findings show that American’s favor reducing use of traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil. They’d like an increase in renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar power. However, American’s also suggested keeping the use of natural gas and nuclear power at the same rate we’re using it today.

In Pequannock, a discussion of the pipeline at a town council meeting in August 2015 frustrated many residents. The council rebuffed pipeline opponents' arguments by saying that they didn’t want to file an ordinance against the Pilgrim pipeline because they believe it would get dismissed in court and end up being a waste of the town’s money.

The town council said it wants to treat the Pilgrim pipeline plan just like any other construction proposal that has been brought to their attention. The council stated they don’t want to single the company out just because they’re an oil company.

“We shouldn’t further facilitate fossil fuels and the corporate agendas of major petroleum companies if we want to consider ourselves either technologically or morally progressive in any sense of the word,” said David Young, the chemical engineer critical of gas pipelines safety record. “Accepting this pipeline would be a major step backwards for environmental preservation efforts and for providing support to alternative energy development.”

Pipeline Opposition Rises in NJ Towns

However, other towns aren’t backing down against the Pilgrim pipeline proposal. “Some 25 of the 28 towns along the route in New Jersey have passed resolutions opposing the project, with more expected to come on board, according to the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, which is organizing an opposition effort,” NJ.com reported in January 2015.

Jo Sippie-Gora, 75, a local activist, member of Kinnelon Conserve, and a retired Kinnelon resident said that “it’s satisfying” knowing that Americans are against fossil fuel usage.

Sippie-Gora said one of the negative effects the pipeline would possibly bring is, “[lack of] responsibility, the burden is really going to be for the people that live along the pipeline and not on the company. They’re not going to indemnify any of the homeowners or any of the residents and businesses that could be affected.”

Sippie-Gora additionally mentioned that the pipeline would create only short-term jobs. The community needs more long-term jobs and the pipeline only positively effects Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC. New Jersey’s unemployment rating in March 2014 was 5.5%, it remains among the highest in the United States. “Of 302,000 unemployed residents in New Jersey in 2014, around 41 percent, or 125,000 people, have been out of work at least 27 weeks,” according to federal labor data.

President Obama announced on Nov. 6, that he would be rejecting the request from a Canadian oil company to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would of been 1,179-miles long and would have carried 800,000 barrels a day of petroleum from Canada to the Gulf Coast. It has been in review for seven years and finally has ended. Obama cited climate change as a key factor of his decision to deny the pipeline being built.

Perhaps the denial of the Keystone XL pipeline will convince local officials in Pequannock and other towns that would be affected by the pipeline to think long-term.

According to NJ.com, on Jan. 16, 2015 a spokesman for the Pilgrim pipeline announced that the company is “going full steam ahead” regardless of the disapproval that the pipeline has been receiving ever since the plans were publicized. 

Pipeline Company Dismisses Opposition

Paul Nathanson, the spokesman for Pilgrim stated, “We remain confident that it will go through.” The residents that will be affected by the construction will certainly disagree, especially since most of the towns have passed resolutions against it. According to NJ.com, “Nathanson pointed out that the resolutions carry no legal weight and continued to predict that the plan ‘will gain support’ after people learn more about it.”

NJ.com noted that Nathanson claims that the pipeline will be safer and environmentally friendly, among have other benefits. NJ.com also revealed, “In the interview with the editorial board, Paul Martin, director of permitting and licensing for an environmental consulting group, said Pilgrim will need approximately 20 permits from the DEP, along with reviews from the state's Highlands Council and Green Acres program. He estimated it would take 12 to 16 months to get all the necessary approvals.”

If Pilgrim gets all the proper permits to build the pipeline, the New Jersey Sierra Club plans to combat Pilgrim legally as a last resort. 

Sippie-Gora said, “If we’re going to leave a livable planet for our descendants, we have no choice. We have to move away from fossil fuels.”


Jonathan Sanzari has an A.A. from Passaic County Community College and is receiving his B.A. in Communication Arts in August of 2016. He is a contributing writer and copy editor for Meadowlands USA, a publication created by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber. He plans to pursue a job that will cover local news that’ll benefit the community. He is also interested in environmental writing and potentially become a freelance writer.

The Importance of Herbal Medicine & Essential Oils


Ginger plants (Wikipedia.org)


By Tara Glickman
                                   

Society’s lifestyle has become dependent on pharmaceutical drugs that move us away from nature, yet we cannot escape from nature because we are part of nature. What nature can store in our bodies has not fully been discovered. European and Oriental countries have been studying and fulfilling the use of herbs as a practice of medicine for centuries.

The overall benefit of herbal medicine is that there are little to no side effects. These remedies align with nature, which is a positive factor in comparison to industrial chemical-based medicine that can often have serious side effects. The most important factor is that the use of herbal treatment is plausible for any age group.

 Herbs can cure diseases, provide relief because of the active drug that is produced by it, and also combines the chemicals from a plant and how it can offer a sense of relief. This doesn’t necessarily means it works for everyone, but there are commonly no side effects, including the risk of drug addiction.

Herbal medicine is the use of herbs and medicinal plants as the first medicine, which is a universal phenomenon. It can provide a positive quality of life and just as effective as synthetic drugs but without the side effects. Herbal medicine is about 70% of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is accessible deeper within the body to treat the root cause. This creates a more potent and effective treatment to confirm quicker reactions to re-establish health and balance.

Let me illustrate some personal herb medicine and oils that I use, and explain the purpose for each treatment.
     
Ginger

The history of ginger goes back to as early as 500 BC. Ginger was a highly prized herb commonly associated with wealth for thousands of years - in the 13th century, a pound of ginger was traded for a sheep! It is most commonly known for its ability to help digestive ailments (nausea, indigestion, gas, and diarrhea) and relieve aches and pains. It can be consumed fresh, dried, steeped in tea, in fresh vegetable juice or lemonade, in culinary spice mixes, or in essential oil form - diluted and inhaled or rubbed on your tummy for direct relief.

Tumeric

Tumeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb that has been used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat just about everything from liver problems to pain to depression. Today, researchers have shown turmeric as an aid in treating and preventing certain types of cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes (just to name a few).

This potent natural medicine benefits every system of the body and may just be one of the best things for your overall health to add to your diet. It's pretty mild in flavor, and should definitely be added to your cooking spice cabinet. It is even suggested to throw it in any spicy dish, stir-fry, or even a smoothie. Turmeric is more effectively absorbed with black pepper and is also fat-soluble, so always take it with a bit of fat and black pepper to optimize absorption. The ancient recipe of Golden Milk is a great way to do this (turmeric + black pepper + coconut milk).

 Olive Oil

Olive oil does wonders for your health because it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune system boosting properties. Consuming good quality olive oil daily can help protect against degenerative conditions like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's. It can even be used for moisturizing and rejuvenating damaged skin. If the olive oil isn’t filtered or artificially flavored, it makes a big difference.

Yerba Mate and Lemon Balm

Yerba Mate herb is a plant loaded with vitamins and minerals that are native to South America, known for its energy boosting, mentally stimulating, digestive and immune tonic effects. Lemon Balm herb, of the mint family, used primarily to calm the nerves, relax muscles, relieve indigestion, promote concentration, and treat insomnia, anxiety, and thyroid problems.

Herbal Fat Balls

Homemade stress-fighting herbal fat balls use coconut oil, organic peanut butter, hemp powder, raw honey, chia seeds, cinnamon, and licorice powder. It is loaded with omega 3, protein, magnesium, fiber and vitamins. Licorice root prevents the breakdown of cortisol (our stress hormone) while cinnamon and honey help regulate blood sugar levels. All three of these natural goodies gifted from nature are also used for digestive, immune and cardiovascular health.

Cinnamon (Wikipedia.org)
Cinnamon

Cinnamon is also one of the most delicious medicinal plants a person can consume. Cinnamon helps regulate blood circulation which allows oxygen get to your organs so you can metabolize and function in a healthier way. This "brain food" stimulates mental activity, and is a pain relieving anti-inflammatory, and a digestive tonic. Your body and mind will thank you for sprinkling some good quality cinnamon onto your food whenever you can: oatmeal, coffee, cereal, yogurt, pancakes, baked goods, and smoothies. The options are limitless. It is also recommended to combine it with honey for an extra boost of natural healing energy.

Good nutrition does not mean boring. A delicious dish can be made from a red potato, zucchini, red onion, jalapeño, cherry tomato, avocado, egg, jack cheese--scramble in garlic olive oil topped with chia seeds. This is a digestive formula “to ease tension in the mind and gut,” which is perfect for anyone with nervousness or anxiety. Bitters are the secret to digestive enzymes and helping to get your digestion moving. We are chronically lacking bitter tastes in the standard American diet, but our bodies need it for optimal functioning.
                                                                                     

Tara Glickman is studying global communications at Ramapo College of New Jersey. “In my free time I enjoy hiking with my dog and exploring different state parks located near me. I also enjoy cooking and experimenting with different ingredients. I also have a great appreciation for art, independent films, and all the animals in the world. I try living a positive lifestyle at all times and always hope to pass along the energy to those around me. If we can all be kind to one another, the world could be a very beautiful place. It has always been my goal to leave people better than I found them. “Hug the hurt, kiss the broken, befriend the lost, love the lonely.”

Indian Point Power Plant Leak Sets off State Alarms



Indian Point power plant on Hudson Rover  (csglobe.com)


By Tyler Blackman


Earlier this year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a hazardous radioactive agent has seeped into groundwater at the Indian Point power plant, which is only 25 miles away from New York City, as well as Bergen County, New Jersey. The power plant on the Hudson River in Buchanan, NY is the main source of power for over 23 million people in the New York City area.

“The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well's radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent,” CBS News reported. Tritium, which can cause birth defects and cancer, was found in some areas around the plant peaking at 8 million picocuries per liter. Curie is a measurement of radioactivity, a picocurie is 1 trillionth of a curie. Though the radioactive material did not seep into the Hudson River there was a high possibility of the agent contaminating drinking water.

A spokeperson for the plant, Jerry Nappi, said the leak could’ve came from water spillage “as a result of a mechanical issue during pumping of water during January.”  Spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Neil Sheehan agreed with the statement, adding “it was water build up from a contaminated drain,” but did not have any comments as to why it went overlooked for so long. In 2009 the same plant was under federal investigation following the release of 100,000 gallons of contaminated water. Five years later the plant tested for high levels of tritium during a plant shutdown.

After Governor Cuomo called for an investigation of the plant in February, samples were taken immediately. Since then more tests have been done and have shown that the contamination levels are over 75% higher than the previous samples taken earlier this year. Cuomo is joining efforts by environmental groups to get federal approval for the plant to be shut down.

"It's a disaster waiting to happen and it should be shut down," stated Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, a watchdog organization that works to protect the Hudson River.

 But former director of licensing for the plant, John J. Kelly, said “It’s more of a regulatory problem than an environmental problem”. Entergy, the company owner of the plant, stated that the contamination will not affect local communities since the groundwater is on their plant land..

State officials see a bigger problem.

 “For over 40 years, Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear facilities have been damaging the coastal resources of the Hudson River estuary…New York is home to four commercial nuclear facilities. When properly located and safely functioning, these facilities are regarded as important generators of electricity… However, by virtue of its location as well as its operations, the Department cannot make the same finding as to Indian Point,” Secretary of State Cesar Perales said.


According to news reports, the plant continued to spew toxic radioactive material, in some places as high as 65,000 percent increase compared to previous tests. When will they fix this problem and why does it keep happening? Though the public may not know all the answers to these questions, one question that was answered was the potential termination of the plant. Due to a series of mishaps in the past and present, the investigation called by Governor Cuomo can potentially have a huge influence in the closing of the plant.

“This latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable," Cuomo said, "and I have directed Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause, and potential impacts to the environment and public health.” 



Tyler Blackman is a graduating senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey pursuing a Multimedia Journalism degree through the school of Contemporary Arts. "After learning about citizen journalist in a class I took, I decided to change my major from Journalism to Multimedia Journalism aiming to gain experience in different fields such as journalism, video production, web/app design, augmented reality and even foreign film."

What's the Big Deal about Tiny Houses?


Tiny house, Globe, Arizona   (photo: Jan Barry) 


By Cassandra Bernyk

      
You may have heard about or even seen within the past couple of years a house that is much smaller than your typical American home. Tiny house living is a movement that is becoming increasingly popular in our nation.

To understand what exactly a ‘tiny house’ is, a typical American home is around 2,600 square feet, and the typical tiny house is between 100 to 400 square feet.

Americans making the decision to downsize to these small homes are becoming more environmentally conscious as well as addressing financial concerns. About a third to half of a typical American’s paycheck may go towards living in a ‘regular sized’ house. This is hard for some families to do over the course of many years. Converting to a tiny house can help simplify your life and help make sound fiscal plans, enjoy life adventures, self-sufficiency, and become more environmentally consciousness.
        
Owning a tiny house can make you more environmentally conscious and friendly, too. Having such a smaller space encourages you own less clutter  and to have a much smaller ecological footprint.

In terms of electricity, a tiny house consumes about 914 kWh/year, which amounts to 1,144 pounds of CO2. In comparison, an average sized home consumes about 12,773 kWh/ year, which amounts to 16,000 pounds of CO2 released into our atmosphere. Heating a tiny house produces about 558 pounds of CO2 per year; compared to heating an average sized home that produces 8,000 pounds of CO2 per year. Cooling a tiny house produces about 286 pounds of CO2 per year; compared to cooling an average sized home which produces about 4,000 pounds of CO2 per year.

In total, a tiny house releases about 2,000 pounds of CO2 annually as compared to an average sized home releasing about 28,000 pounds of CO2 into our atmosphere.
          
Now that many facts about owning a tiny house have been covered, there are tons of different types and models of tiny houses out in the world today. There are different projects and companies that have taken their own spin on this tiny house movement. For example, in Eugene, Oregon there is a tiny house village that was built specifically for people without homes and making it realistic for them to live in one.

The tiny house village is called “Opportunity Village Eugene” and has recently paired up with the company, SunJack, that makes portable solar chargers. These solar charges were placed on the roofs of the tiny houses, making the energy bills of the homes much lower while teaching a community about renewable energy. Each tiny house is about 60 to 80 square feet. All together over 30 homeless people now have a place to live with kitchens, bathrooms, computer and Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and more. The residents of this village pay a $30 utility fee per month along with doing community service hours.

This project is a brilliant way to help out those who are without a home, due to how expensive owning a full sized house can be, along with engaging them with a community teaching them ways to live more sustainably.

An example of a company that is embracing the tiny house movement is “Tumbleweed: Tiny House Company.” Taking a look at the models Tumbleweed offers, they just prove that you do not have to sacrifice beauty for a smaller living situation. Every inch of space is utilized in a way that it is efficient yet not too crowding. While offering four already made models, Tumbleweed encourages the “Do It Your Own” aspect of this movement. They offer floor plans, workshops and more, to make it as simple as it can get to build your very own dream tiny house.
          
While the tiny house movement’s ideal is to downsize and live small, there is nothing small or tiny about the environmentally friendly impacts they are having on our Earth. This movement is proving to be a great move to live more sustainably, while giving folks who currently have no place to call home, the opportunity to do that. Hopefully, with time we can further expand these projects and companies to make an even larger impact on the world.


Cassandra Bernyk is a sophomore at Ramapo College pursuing a B.A in Environmental Studies with a minor in Food Studies.

Water Crisis in Newark Opens Up Widespread Lead Pollution Problem


www.cbsnews.com


By Omar Keita

The entire nation has been exposed to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and what it has caused in the city. However, in the past few months it has been discovered that water in schools and other major facilities in Newark, New Jersey have been contaminated with large amounts of lead. Although many environmentalists say this problem could have and should have been confronted a long time ago.

While Newark seems to be the city that is most affected by lead contamination, smaller amounts have been found in water in Morristown and other communities, as well as at the Passaic Valley Water Commission, which provides water to towns across five New Jersey counties. This water crisis reveals a huge risk that could affect a large amount of people. It also shows that health departments need to raise their standards and have better testing to prevent possible huge outbreaks from happening.

What makes this even more unsettling is that most of the contamination was inside Newark schools, so it could have potentially put a large amount of children at risk.
      
The water crisis in Newark is not nearly as bad as the one in Flint, Michigan. However, it was definitely a “wakeup call” to a growing public health issue in New Jersey, said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. Tittel has previously brought up many of the health problems that have been affecting the state and has constantly been critical of the public health system and what it has been failing to do.

"We need to do a better job of testing throughout the state and fixing these problems. We can't allow our children to be put at risk," Tittel said to Dan Ivers of NJ.com. "While the governor acts like it isn't a serious issue, we're seeing school children and hospital patients being exposed to a dangerous neurotoxin."
        
Tittel brought up a very good point, and health officials know that they must do a better job. But at the same time, they are down playing the problem and trying to lower concerns about the lead levels in the water by telling citizens that the only reason for the lead contamination is because of aging buildings and compared to Flint, lead levels are not nearly as high and dangerous as in Michigan.

No Safe Level of Lead

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe lead level for children. Even at the lowest possible levels, there are signs that show any consumption of lead can affect a child’s intelligence, as well as the ability to pay attention and achieve academic success.
         
In order to make sure that the levels of lead are not toxic and harmful, Newark public schools shut off their fountains to prevent kids from consuming the contaminated water, and they have been drinking from water bottles for the time being. Yet after all the testing and the caution that has been put on the water, health experts have stated that although there has been lead found in the water supply, it is not likely that the lead levels will cause any serious harm to the kids.
       
The word has been put out about water inside Newark public schools being contaminated with lead. Now it is time for the Health Department to take action and do what is necessary to get rid of the water contamination problem before it gets any worse and spreads throughout the city.


Billion dollar Tag to Fix City Water System

However, the process of removing the lead from the water may be a difficult and very expensive task.  To jumpstart the renovation of the Newark water system, Mayor Ras Baraka met with other city officials including Grace Spencer, the city's Assemblywoman, recently to discuss how to gain support for a possible bill that would create a 10-cent bottle deposit in the state, according to NJ.com. The proceeds from each bottle would be put towards the funding to update the outdated water systems. Estimating the total costs of repairing the entire city water system, including old pipes, water mains as well as sewer overflows, would come to more than $1 billion.

 "It's a huge undertaking to just deal with the water systems in the schools, and then the infrastructure problems that we have as a city would be huge of course," Mayor Baraka stated. "We don't have the money and the resources to do that." For that reason the process of rejuvenating Newark’s water system may be even more elongated.
        
If not already, more people will soon have the fear of using the water in their own homes, just for the sake of not being poisoned by the water contaminated with lead. Andrea Adebowale, the city's water and sewer director, tried to make it clear to residents that water at the majority of areas around the city have been tested this past year, and most of the test samples came back with lead levels well below those considered to be dangerous.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency requires those tests to be performed every three years, but due to the recent scares and warnings that have been made about the water in the city, officials are planning to do them on a six-month basis instead to reassure the safety to the city’s residents.


Omar Keita is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey pursuing a Communications degree.   He enjoys writing and is very interested in learning about the environment and exploring new ways to make the world around him a better place.

The Passaic River: Layers of Pollution


 
commons.wikimedia.org


By Marcus Miles
                                                                        

The Passaic River used to be a beautiful sight but then the manufacturing industry came into play and has changed the river ever since. According to npr.org, “Layers of pollutants sit at the bottom of the lower end of the river. It's predicted to take years to rid the Passaic of dangerous chemicals and it will cost billions." Furthermore, runoff from parking lots and roads adds to erosion and poisoning of the river.

The poisoning reached as far as the Great Falls in Paterson and living not far from the site, over the years I witnessed the river become contaminated and recently haven't see any progress. This summer there will be city council meetings in Paterson to set up a clean-up plan regarding the city and the Great Falls.

 New Jersey's Passaic River became a framework of the country’s inexperienced industrial business. Because of the contamination in the river parts of New Jersey are paying the price. The river begins in the hills of Morris County and runs about ninety miles to Newark Bay and is becoming one of the toughest clean up jobs in the country.  Because of all the manufacturing in small towns and cities, this created a series of dumping areas and many people thought it would be a good idea to continue to dump waste into the Passaic River. This would go on for decades with the river used to flush away sewage and industrial waste.

 According to NorthJersey.com “Some parts of North Jersey are a lot like Flint, Mich.: old, industrial and poor, with many people living in houses built before World War II, drinking tap water that streams through pipes and fixtures made of lead.”  Paterson is one part of the pattern of pollution in the Passaic River. New Jersey's largest city, Newark, is just miles downstream. Recently, people in Newark are reporting that lead is appearing in their drinking water. Between these two cities, the river has suffered two centuries of human garbage and manufacturing junk.

The river became so badly contaminated that the state Department of Environmental Protection banned eating fish that people catch in the river. The disappointing thing is that it getting worse day by day. According to npr.org “Some pollution experts say if you scrape away one layer of poison in the river, you find another. Deadly dioxin covers a layer of mercury. Dig deeper and you find polychlorinated biphenyls — PCBs — which were once used as coolants and insulating fluids.”

Deadly dioxin and yet no one seems to care about this issue, which is hard to understand because people's loved ones are becoming sick and dying.

On March 31, police discovered a dead body in the Passaic River in Paterson. Not only there are toxics, there are also dead bodies appearing in the river and still no alarming reaction. This is the water that people consume and fish in and no major clean up job is in effect. It seems like the government and other environmental organizations are not attempting a cleanup because they do not see how they will benefit from this situation financially.

My father, Bobby Miles, who currently works for DPW, says there are meetings among workers and government officials in Paterson every summer concerning the Great Falls area of the Passaic River. He said “they are not willing to spend large amounts of money for two reasons...Paterson simply does not have the funding for it and, second, they do not really care.”  Paterson is the third largest city in the State of New Jersey, so one would think that there would be more attention to this issue but there isn’t.

The stretch of river in Newark and for several miles north is getting more attention. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on March 4 its $1.4 billion plan to clean up the most polluted portion of the Passaic River, an area made so unhealthy from corporate dumping that people are forbidden from eating the carcinogenic fish and crabs that come from it,” nj.com reported.

This clean up would generate close to 500 jobs and EPA representatives say that taxpayers will not drop a single dime for this work. The clean up will be paid by more than 100 companies that caused the pollution in the river with chemicals they dumped. However, most of companies have not signed any documentation stating that they will support the clean up and take blame. Nj.com states that negations could take more than a year to complete and then another 10 years to devise a plan to start the cleanup.

Furthermore, EPA administrators said the plan to clean up the lower eight miles of the river will take over 11 years to be completed and even after the clean up is done the fish in the river still will not be safe to eat.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said there about 100 toxic compounds that have caused health problems for residents in Newark, including dioxin, a spin-off of the herbicide Agent Orange that was used throughout the Vietnam War and was manufactured by the former Diamond Alkali facility in Newark.

 According to the EPA, short term exposure to dioxin may cause skin cancer and damage one’s liver. The long term effects may cause reproductive and developmental problems, trouble making hormones function, harm the immune system and thyroid function, and various kinds of cancer. Administrators state that the pollution from the river can also cause asthma.

The Passaic River is important because it is affecting many in the state and the sooner it is cleaned up the happier everyone will be.


Marcus Miles, a  junior at Ramapo College of New Jersey, is majoring in Communication Arts: Journalism.

For more information
www.npr.org/2010/11/19/131167397/the-dirty-truth-about-that-other-jersey-shore
www.northjersey.com/community-news/tap-water-at-risk-closer-to-home-many-pipes-in-north-jersey-made-of-lead-1.1519652?page=all
www.northjersey.com/news/traces-of-toxic-chemical-found-in-north-jersey-water-supplies-1.1530489
patersontimes.com/2016/03/31/body-pulled-out-of-passaic-river-in-paterson-police/
www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2016/03/epa_14b_passaic_river_cleanup_will_be_paid_for_by.html