Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cleanup Updates Not Always Up to Date

By Deanna Dunsmuir

Little news coverage has updated citizens on the condition of the Ramapo River, one of the most vital water supplies to New Jersey. Following the Toxic Legacy report in 2005 clamor began to arise for quicker cleanups of industrial contamination. However, today concerned citizens would be hard pressed to find an update on the status of its water quality.

Following the Toxic Legacy report, the paint sludge was claimed to be removed from the area next to Ford’s former manufacturing plant along the Ramapo River, and from an old iron mining area in neighboring Ringwood near the Wanaque Reservoir, and water tests came back safe to drink. However, in Jan. 2011 an article surfaced of a $50,000 grant for a complete removal of all of the paint sludge at the Ringwood dump site.

The mixed messages of a cleanup, and then a ‘complete cleanup,’ can be confusing to those trying to stay updated on the condition of the water supply. Even further, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has continuously reported that the water from the reservoir is safe to drink, yet in the Jan. 2011 article the US Environmental Protection Agency concluded that, “Decades after the dumping, benzene readings are elevated in water samples in the ground and in a mine airshaft, where it's 30 times safety standards,” which leaves room for concern.

Aside from pollution issues, another status of the Ramapo River, flooding, is a great concern to residents of the Pompton Lakes and Wayne areas. As of March 2011, a Flood Damage Reduction Project will go underway with a $21.6 million price tag, according to the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers. The project will aim to reduce flooding along the Ramapo River from Oakland downstream into Pompton Lakes and Wayne.

“The principal problem along the Ramapo River is flooding caused by the backwater effect produced by the Pompton Lake Dam,” they said. “Mitigation for the environmental impacts of the plan includes the creation of an eight-acre wetland in Potash Lake.”

The most recent flood was last March, where about 200 homes were evacuated, reported The Record.

The highly populated areas surrounding the Ramapo River are being affected by flooding; however, the river is also being affected by the population. News sources and state agencies conclude that the main cause of the stressed and threatened water supply is due to high population adding to sediment from construction and runoff, as well as pollution from chemicals and fertilizers.

In the spring of 2010, 1750 brown and rainbow trout were stocked into the Ramapo River in the town of Sloatsburg alone, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
The stocking of trout can be a crucial sign that adding artificial or natural substances into the river has caused pollution harmful to native trout.

The water conditions of the Ramapo River can be found in the DEC’s latest report, which clearly outlines the conditions. The report concludes that within the Ramapo River,

• Aquatic Life KNOWN to be STRESSED
• Recreation KNOWN to be STRESSED
• Water Supply KNOWN to be THREATENED
• Causes: Nutrients, Pathogens, Silt/Sediment
• Sources: Urban/Storm Runoff

Keeping up with the status of the Ramapo River is a must, as was proved six years ago by the Ringwood residents fighting to clean-up the left over paint sludge near their homes and by the old Ford plant. Current and updated information about the river can be found at the following links.

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