Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ramapo College Students Take Charge at Gearing Up For Power Shift 2011


Contact: Amanda Nesheiwat,

Ramapo College students are mobilizing to attend Power Shift, a national conference that will teach over 10,000 young activists from across the country about the solutions to climate change and how we can put those solutions into practice. Power Shift is aiming to be this year’s largest youth gathering for environmental training in American history and it's happening in Washington, D.C. April 15-18th at the city’s convention center. It is an opportunity for the students of America to show our nation and national leaders how serious we are about a clean energy economy.

Power Shift’s agenda includes a mixture of issue briefings, trainings on organizing and advocacy, an “opportunities fair” featuring some of the country’s leading environmental employers, and built-in networking opportunities for attendees. So far, Environmental Protection Agency head, Lisa Jackson, Al Gore, our former vice president, and Bill Mckibben, author and environmentalist, have confirmed their attendance as speakers.

Ramapo College students will have an opportunity to meet with like-minded students from more than 350 other colleges to become empowered and to work towards a clean energy future. Fossil fuels are proving to be a dirty source of energy. Dangerous hydraulic fracturing, aka “hydrofracking”, is becoming more popular with false claims of its “environmentally friendly” usage and extraction. America’s energy consumption, energy waste, and energy sources are unsustainable. Clean energy is our future, if we want to have one. It’s up to the youth of America to stand up for what we believe is the best for our future. Every living creature on the planet is depending on us to set things right and stand together to show how much leadership the youth of America can offer.

Ramapo College students understand that a happy and healthy community begins with a healthy environment. Thousands of students at hundreds of colleges and universities want to show support for the environmental movement and want to see federal regulations strengthened. This will be a life changing event that will go down in history. Be part of the change and register at:

Luckily, Ramapo College is taking care of our registration fee and also providing transportation, so if you’re a student at Ramapo, sign up today!

For more information, feel free to contact me at
For more information about Power Shift:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Highlands Council Adds 100,000 Acres Under Master Plan

By Brittany Shann

Town by town, a regional plan to protect water supply areas in Northern New Jersey is solidifying.  On February 17, the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council announced they will more than double the amount of acreage that will be under the protection of the Highlands Regional Master Plan. They gained approval to mesh local and regional planning from three sprawling municipalities – West Milford, Rockaway Township, and Tewksbury. These approvals bring another 101,545 acres into conformance, with 83,106 in the Preservation area and 18,439 in the Planning area.

Including these newly acquired ones, the Highlands Council has approved petitions from sixteen municipalities across the New Jersey Highlands region. West Milford conformed for 51,848 acres, all in the Preservation Area; Rockaway Township conformed for 17,789 acres in the Preservation Area and 11,582 in the Planning Area; and Tewksbury conformed for 13,469 in the Preservation Area and 6,857 in the Planning Area.

There are currently 59 municipalities representing 97% of the Preservation Area and 34% of the Planning area that have submitted documents to the Highlands Council to conform local zoning with the regional master plan.  Sixteen others have submitted a notice with intent to conform but have not filed a formal petition, which means they will not be granted approval until they do so.  They still continue to work with the Highlands Council.

“We now have approved petitions for over one-third of the Preservation Area, which is a tremendous start to the Plan Conformance process,” Highlands Council Executive Director Eileen Swan said. “But we’re also seeing more interest from municipalities with lands in the Planning Area. To date, 10 of the 13 municipalities with Planning Area lands have voluntarily opted into conformance, including two municipalities entirely in the Planning Area. We continue to work to ensure protection of New Jersey’s critical water supplies while collaborating with municipalities to plan for a sustainable future. The fact that more municipalities are voluntarily coming into conformance shows that the program is working.”

The plans do not become effective until ten days after Governor Christie had time to read and review the minutes.

For more information, visit the Highlands Council Website at

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Funds For Highlands Protection Running Dry

By Lindsey de Stefan

Protecting the Highlands of New Jersey was established in the 2004 Highlands Act. According to the New Jersey Highlands Council website, this beautiful, spacious and bountiful area consists of some 860,000 acres spread across seven counties and 88 municipalities within the state. But this land required not only protection, but rehabilitation and revamping. Like many other precious areas of open land in our state, dedicated individuals set out to save it and were rather successful in their attempts. Various means were undergone to conserve the Highlands.

One of the most important measures was the creation of a Highlands Council. The Highlands Council was assigned the key responsibility of creating a Regional Master Plan to which all of the municipalities within the Preservation Area would be required to adhere to. A Regional Master Plan was recognized as being crucial to the protection of this critical area of our state. Eventually, in July of 2008, a plan was adopted.

Conforming to meet the standards required to conserve this area properly is costly, however. The state has promised to provide funding to assist participating municipalities in their necessary endeavors to conform to Highlands Regional Master Plan standards. This includes the cost of professional services needed to perform technical work. Up until this point, this has been more or less of a success with a 95% cooperation rate of all municipalities within the Preservation Area, according to the Highlands Council site.

But now there is a problem. New Jersey Governor Christie’s administration is seeking to cut the funding for the protection of the Highlands. This would inhibit the implementation of long term initiatives, such as improving the quality of the drinking water, since this region is a huge supplier of our water, and repairing environmental degradation in some areas of this vast expanse of nature. Without funding, however, all of these things will become impossible.

For more information:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Living In Wayne

By Virginia DiBianca

I have never known of a U.S. town that has reached media attention as distant as Australia other than Wayne, NJ. While the town can be proud of many things, its notoriety is in the flooding that takes place during torrential rainstorms that cause the Passaic River and its tributaries to overflow into the homes of those on its banks. While the winter of 2011 produced record snowfalls followed by a quick thaw, followed by a series of sever rain storms, there are man-made factors that have influenced the flooding problem and, in recent years, made it worse.

The area of Wayne that consistently gets flooded is adjacent to Willowbrook Mall and includes a nearby neighborhood called Hoffman Grove and a street called Fayette Avenue. Many of these homes are visible from Willowbrook Boulevard in Willowbrook Mall. Others are just out of sight near commercial strips along Route 23. Severe flooding like this winter’s also spreads into the mall and closes sections of Routes 23 and 46 to traffic.

Originally, the homes, built more than 50 years ago, prior to the building of the mall, were used as part-time vacation homes for out-of-towners who wanted a touch of country living on the weekend. Somewhere along the way, the homes were sold as full time residences. As development took place, the areas where water would have laid in the soggy ground found its way towards these homes along the Pompton and Passaic Rivers. Additionally, in 2007 the Army Corp of Engineers built a floodgates in a dam along the Ramapo River to hold back flood waters that were flooding the town of Oakland. Consequently, Wayne along with neighboring towns has become inundate with water from the floodgates that surges down the Pompton River to the Passaic River.

In 2007 with $11 million in state and federal funding the township began to buy the homes affected by the flooding. As reported in July, 2010 in The Record Newspaper, 71 of the 100 homes have been destroyed. Last spring, when the waters of the river once again flooded these sections of Wayne, Governor Christie toured the affected areas stating that the buyout of homes along the river will continue. He defended state officials for allowing development to take place on flood prone land by claiming that local officials approved the plans first.

Last year, Governor Christie established the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Board with former Wayne mayor Scott Rumana as lead. The board is examining ways to solve the flooding problem or at least minimize the impact. Their options include:

1. Buyouts of flood-prone homes. The state already has $31 million reserved for such purposes.

2. Creation of new riverside wetlands.

3. Fine-tuning the Pompton Lake Dam floodgates to end episodes of downstream flooding.

4. Dredging and clearing of debris.

5. Streamlining state regulations on flood relief projects.

6. Improving effectiveness of emergency response, water flow readings and public information.

7. Studying the basin as a whole — its topography and historical river patterns — in concert with local and state planners and the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with long term solutions.

Wayne is a town with many enclaves of vibrant communities on ridges and hills that offer a good place to live. According to the U.S. Census, the average income for Wayne is $97,048 as compared to the United States average of $51,025. In September of 2010, NJ Monthly ranked Wayne’s two high school number 51 and 63 out of 322 New Jersey schools. The town boasts of several lake communities offering swimming, boating and recreational activities that promote healthy, family living. Beyond the presence of the flooding rivers, the town is considered an upper-middle class suburban oasis. Citizens of the town actively participate in making the town what it is. They deserve a solution to this never ending flooding that presents an unflattering view of Wayne to the rest of the world.

For more information:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mayor Speaks of Regional Plan

By Deanna Dunsmuir

The mayor of West Milford, Bettina Bieri, published an opinion piece on Friday entitled, "Why the Highlands Act is Good for Our Town," in the Daily Record. The Passiac county town is one of five municipalities that fall completely under the Highlands preservation region regulations in the New Jersey Highlands Regional Master Plan.

Bieri’s argument was directed at “any town considering conformance” to the regional master plan.

The mayor feels that keeping out big businesses and housing developments with the restrictions that are part of the Highlands protection act will help preserve the scenery and recreational areas that the town residents see as an asset.

PHOTO/Courtesy of
The Highlands Regional Master Plan acts to preserve land such as this in West Milfod.

“The burden of a large number of new housing units in the township would place a significant strain on our limited infrastructure and require the expansion of our schools and municipal services,” Bieri wrote.

The mayor would like to keep property taxes down by acting to halt the typical trend of increasing school sizes and a bigger municipal building; that comes along with new housing developments.

Milford is a rural township that hosts forested watersheds for reservoirs that provide drinking water to millions of residents in northern New Jersey.

How much of the region will be subjected to tight restrictions on development is still being resolved. About half of the region is in a core preservation area; the outer half is in a planning area with fewer restrictions on development. The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council submitted an addendum to the regional plan in 2010. The amendment redefines “acreage of the Highlands Region in municipalities and counties,” the report said.

The new report is said to be a more accurate account of what land falls under the planning and preservation areas. The new data was provided by the New Jersey Office of Information Technology.

The Highland Regional master plan, developed in 2008, was designed to protect the best watersheds in the northern part of New Jersey, along with protecting ecosystems and air quality.

Although the plan will certainly protect the towns like West Milford from big businesses and housing developers, Bieri wrote that it also places some restrictions on her town’s needs.

“The act needs to provide for exemptions to allow necessary municipal projects,” she says, hoping to be able to provide emergency service buildings and libraries at the town’s will.

“The act also needs to provide a mechanism for revenue generation in an effort to bring fairness and equity to the developmentally restricted Preservation Areas that have been mandated to protect New Jersey's drinking water," she added. "A nominal water surcharge imposed upon the end user would accomplish equity without placing a burden on any New Jersey resident or family.”

The Highlands Regional Plan can be found at this website.

Earth Day is Everyday in Kinnelon,NJ

By Jessica Vasquez

April is the month of Earth Day, four weeks when human impact on our planet is most highlighted. One town that is doing their part is Kinnelon, New Jersey. But April is not the only time that this community comes together to educate themselves and act upon their new knowledge.

Kinnelon Conserve is a grassroots environmental awareness group of Northern New Jersey founded in 2006 by Avery Hart, a mental health practitioner and author of childrens’ books. Hart worked with Jo Sippie-Gora and Belinda Hull, two concerned citizens, to form the organization. These women got the word out that Kinnelon citizens could do their part by making a commitment to form new environmental and economy friendly habits. Kinnelon Conserve founders went to schools, government members, libraries, faith leaders, and various residents for support. A pledge, called “The 1,000 Ton Challenge” was signed by those who resolve to do what they could change in their daily lives to have a positive impact on the Earth.

In November of 2008, Kinnelon Conserves was recognized at the 21st Annual Morris County Recycling Awards. The group received the N.E. Morris County Conservation is Good Conservation Award. Since the group’s founding, they had participated in nine public events by this time. At each event, participants were asked to sign the pledge, the first part of which reads “I pledge to become more aware about my use of energy and natural resources. I will do my best to replace wasteful habits with wise ones, to conserve energy and natural resources, and take action to prevent 5000 pounds of unnecessary pollution.”

Avery Hart describes the group: “Our goal is to start with ourselves, by boosting awareness.” The group’s homepage (} is their greatest resource for residents. The subtitle “A Community Energy Reduction Initiative” says it all; the goal is conservative habits. A compilation of links to websites full of useful information and innovation is designed for adults and kids. Not only are viewers informed on why they should be practicing sustainable living, but also how to gradually make the transition.

Links on the homepage educate residents on what purchases they can cut back on at the grocery store such as Styrofoam cups and plastic utensils which are not biodegradable. Beneath each listed item are reason not to buy them, as well as alternatives to these purchases. The Kid’s section of the page is “where kids of all ages explore, play & learn.” It leads to websites that give children and young adults the tools to make their community, such as school and places of worship, safer and healthier environments not only for those attending these places, but for the world around them. Such a site is hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and referred to as “the green squad.”

Kinnelon Conserves will host their 5th Annual Earth Day Fair on Saturday, April 9 at Pearl Miller School, 117 Kiel Avenue. The event will take place rain or shine as entertainment takes place both indoors and outdoors. Activities include live music, films, and vendors. Programs will be promoted and “green” products will be available to purchase. Eco-vendors, performers, and volunteers are still needed for this event. For more information about the fair, sustainable living, or starting your own grassroots conservation group go to or email

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eco-Friendly Toys Promote Fun and Recycling

By Courtney Leiva

In the past few years popular toy retailers have been recalling their products left and right due to lead and other toxic chemicals found in the paint. Although this has left many parents unsure and uneasy as to where they can purchase their toys, these recalls have paved the way for the emergence of eco-friendly and green toy companies.

According to the New York Times, in 2007, toy retailer Mattel, the maker of popular children’s toys such as Barbie and Hot Wheels-recalled over one million of toys. The recall was based on the discovery of lead in the paint on some the company’s most popular products such as Dora the Explorer related toys.

With recalls like these many parents are turning to alternative places to purchase children’s toys. Websites like pledge to make their products from environmentally friendly, recycled materials such as recycled plastic and recycled milk jugs. Packaging of these products also comes from recycled and sustainable materials. The products are also toxin free as they contain no BPA or phthalates which is harmful to human health.

By going eco-friendly, the company has also reduced their carbon footprint. By implementing environmentally friendly materials in their products this reduces the use of fossil fuel as well as reduces green house gas emissions and improves human health as well as the health of the planet.

But how much energy does a green retailer like Green Toys save? The company states that on average every pound of recycled milk jugs used in the making of green toys saves energy equal to 3,000 AAA batteries, saves enough electricity to power a television set for 3 whole weeks, as well as saving enough electricity to keep a laptop computer running for a month.

Not only is eco-friendly toys fun but they also teaching our children about the world around us as they promote recycling-and saving energy. These toys are also more affordable than an average toy found on toy store shelves. Certain green toymakers also donate proceeds of purchases to charities. Karito Kids, a doll retailer for girls, donates 3 percent of the toys retail price to a charity of a child’s choice.

Although solar powered doll houses won’t out shine X-box video gaming systems any time soon, green toys did relatively well last Christmas (2010) season, as the prices for these products are relatively cheaper. Eco-friendly toys also had their own pavilion at the annual toy fair in New York last year, and sustainability is the theme coming up for Germany’s big toy fair this year.

Even though the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 banned lead and phthalates from children’s products, many parents do not want to take a risk. That is why many eco friendly toys are now emerging into more mainstream toy retailers such as Toys R Us.

On the company’s website, a specially designated eco-friendly section offers green toys ranging from puzzles, doll houses made from recycled cardboard, as well as eco-friendly play washing machines. Mainstream online retailers such as sell lots of eco-friendly toys made from materials such as organic fabrics and dyes made from vegetable based paints.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dupont: Pompton Lakes Revisited

By Graig Mihok

It has been almost a year since the toxic tort unit of Weitz and Luxenberg filed their cases for the residents of Pompton Lakes against DuPont. Decades of pollution from DuPont's now closed plant in Pompton Lakes has seeped into the soil, water, and recently with the vapor intrusion reports, the air.

Residents have been down this road with DuPont in 2003 and 2004 in an attempt to right the wrongs. After settlements and waivers, DuPont now claims that the residents signed their rights away to seek any further damages, meanwhile accepting no responsibility for wrong doings. The residents newest cases against DuPont are the first since 2008 based on new information about the cancer-causing agents that have vaporized through the soil into neighborhood basements.

DuPont has been doing everything they can, including a motion to the U.S. District Court in Newark, to release the claims of about 100 residents who had settled years ago. Through their lawyers, the residents are trying to make the case that the releases should not apply because the older settlements were based around lead and mercury contamination and not the newer vapor issue. Only fewer than a dozen of the 400 residents involved in the new case filed personal injury claims, arguing their illnesses come from the vaporized solvents.

Meanwhile, the community has been taking action in regards to the illnesses it feels were caused from the vapor intrusion. Pompton Lakes Community Advisory Group for Health Member Lisa Riggiola has requested a list of chemicals related to the DuPont site and the health implications of these chemicals to human organs. An updated cancer incidence analysis will take place in late March for the Barbara Drive area specifically, scanning for brain cancer and tumors.

The newer case centers around TCE and PCE, two solvents that DuPont used heavily during the 20th century at the former munitions plant in Pompton Lakes. At some point the solvents made their way into the groundwater beneath about 450 homes in the area. TCE and PCE have been linked to both kidney cancer and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Weitz and Luxenberg argues that “DuPont was a major manufacturer of PCE between the 1930's and and at least the mid 1980's. As such, DuPont was expert in the characteristics and handling of PCE and chemicals with similar properties, and knew or should have known of the then developing science relating to such.”

DuPont claims that its procedures complied with “state-of-the-art knowledge in waste disposal remediation practices,“ and that these practices complied with federal state and local regulation. $35.8 million was offered by DuPont in 1997 to claim filing residents near Acid Brook, but ended up only paying between $70,000 and $80,000 to those who settled.

An illustration of vapor intrusion in homes:

Source: White River Toxic Action Committee

Can Salad Oil Fix a Toxic Mess?

By Brittany Shann

About 450 homes in Pompton Lakes have been affected by the spread of cancer-causing solvents from a nearby munitions factory. These solvents have contaminated groundwater underneath the homes with tetrachlorothene and trichlorothene and have been vaporizing into the households. These solvents have been correlated with kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and elevated levels of these cancers were found in residents of a neighborhood near the former DuPont manufacturing plant.

As a way to potentially solve this problem, scientists have discovered that the injection of vegetable oil into the ground may help to break down the toxins that have been linked with cancer. According to, "The oil acts as food for a type of organism, called halo-respiring bacteria that naturally occur in the soil. Adding the oil gives them more nutrients and enables them to become more active, which spurs them to break down the solvents in the groundwater." The process is called enhanced anaerobic bioremediation, which is not too well-known but is most commonly used among environmental scientists and cleanup experts during the past few years.

Since it is a generally new process, rates of success are still mainly unknown. Scientists will most likely use soybean oil because it is the most cost-effective and it will still do the intended job. This project should begin within the next few months and if it is successful, it will be spread to a greater portion of the neighborhood by 2012. However, the contamination will most likely not be cleaned up for years.

The test will begin at the area where the toxins are most concentrated, which is at Barbara Drive at the intersection with Schulyer Avenue. The bioremediation materials will be injected into the soil periodically underneath Barbara Drive.

DuPont will submit a report on the success of the tests by June of 2012.

Pollution Taints the Ramapo River

By Lorraine Metz

The Ramapo River, a small stream on the edge of the Ramapo College campus, is a major contributor to regional public drinking water supplies.

According to NJWaters, the Ramapo River “flows from New York into Bergen County and enters the Pequannock River to form the Pompton River in Wayne Township.” The website also states that “Phosphorous and bacteria are elevated. Sodium and copper may be of concern here and should be watched.” Pollution in the area should be monitored closely to protect the cleanliness and purity of the water supplied to the public in the surrounding areas, the website added.

“Runoff from housing and road construction sites, and runoff from urban surfaces and storm sewers, has contributed significantly to the pollution in the waterways. The construction of Interstate 287 has had a significant impact upon the Ramapo. Habitat loss in this river has been expanded and intensified by local dredging and channelization. The fisheries in the Ramapo are also considered threatened by agricultural activity in the watershed.”

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the major water quality concerns in the watershed include that storm water runoff is affected by abundant urbanization, suburbanization, and commercial development. Also municipal and residential wastewater discharges are high due to the high population of the area.

There are many concerns with the Ramapo River since it helps provide water for the large population in northern New Jersey as well as Rockland County in New York. Many factors have affected the levels of pollution in the river. One instance was when fish in the Ramapo River were found to be tainted due to chemicals left over from the former Ford plant in Mahwah. The dumped paint sludge and irresponsible removal and dumping of chemicals is affected the wildlife in the water and most certainly the water itself as well, according to the New York State DEC.

An EPA document warns that, “The Ramapo River Basin Aquifer Systems are unconfined, or water-table aquifers, which makes them vulnerable to contamination. In addition, much of the soil overlying the valley fill aquifer in the Ramapo and Mahwah Rivers valleys is highly permeable.” The document continues, “Incidents of contamination have already occurred in the Ramapo River Basin.”

These incidents include findings of water contaminated by volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. Other findings included methyl chloroform in the water supply system in Suffern, New York.

The document concludes by saying that “there are no economically feasible alternative drinking water sources that could replace the Ramapo River Basin Aquifer Systems” With this in mind it’s crucial for the residents of the area to be conscious of pollution and the impacts that could influence their drinking water.

For more information :

Trail Blazers

By John Clancey

Nature is everywhere. From the hedges that line people’s property lines, to the boulders pushed here by glaciers millions of years ago, we are defined by this natural world. We maintain the illusion of society, but really we are an island cast adrift amongst a sea of forests. Still, every day we look to strengthen this divide, we removing ourselves more and more from what is truly our birthright. Thankfully, however, we need not fear this societal shift away from the natural world. The truth remains that no matter how estranged we may become, we will always be able reconnect through our national parks.

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is an organization dedicated to the conservation and development of the two states already sterling network of parks and trails. Together with the support of volunteers, the NY-NJ Trail Conference builds trails, promotes environmental stewardship, supports activists and land conservation, promotes responsible trail use, educates citizens, and brings communities closer. Through the efforts of volunteers, The NY-NJ Trail Conference assures the development and sanctuary of over 1,700 miles of public trail.

Still, it takes more than a coalition of volunteers to protect such vast tracks of open land. No matter how secure protected areas may appear, in an age of industrial pollution and space aged plastics, the dangers of environmental erosion have never been more real. Land development of all types presents the biggest threat. Large scale housing projects and power line extensions intrude on traditionally scenic areas, damaging already struggling environments. Things like interstate pipelines threaten state owned preserves and parks. In New Jersey, unregulated ATV use causes massive damage to trails and paths originally only designed to support foot traffic. Fluctuations in state funding and understaffing amongst preserves also present potential threats to the areas remaining wilderness.

With these threats in mind, it’s important for citizens both young and old to look up and take notice of what’s happening to the world around them. The NY-NJ Trial Conference presents citizens the information they need to make a stand. Concerned parties can volunteer, make donations, or simply make use of the facilities available to them. The patronage of state parks and trails is not only beneficial to the patron, but to the parks themselves. Volunteering to maintain and develop new trails is essential to expanding the capabilities of our state parks.

In a world that has become the definition of hyper development, it is important to remember what our roots are. As humanity moves into the next phase of a global community, the impotents of national parks continues to grow and grow. Not only do they offer the next generation a chance to connect with a time long lost, but provide a convenient escape for anyone within driving distance. By associating with the NY-NJ trail Conference, you not only strengthen the quality of life, but invest in the future of your community.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tending to the Chalice of Life

By John Clancey

Examples of our planets maternal splendors can be found everywhere. Whatever world we have made for ourselves is nothing compared to the wealth of life that is our environment. It is this sprit that communities must embrace if they hope to maintain the life-sustaining resources that perpetuate their environment. Among the most important of these fragile catalysts of life is the fundamental cornerstone of society that is the regional natural watershed.

Look no further than Mahwah, New Jersey. There, lying amongst the foothills of the Ramapo Mountain, exists a watershed that has supported communities along its river banks for more than three hundred years. The Ramapo River Watershed encases over 925 square miles, during which it traverses as well as defines the landscapes of one of our most spectacular regions. Existing in both northern New Jersey and southeastern New York, this extraordinary water system drains into over thirty five lakes and ponds. These communal life springs play host to kayakers, fishermen, and wildlife alike as well as beautifying the entire region.

The importance of natural watersheds cannot be understated. Water is a limited resource. To squander water is to squander life. However, despite the attention important issues like the watershed deserve, they are largely overlooked and remain in constant danger. Waste deposits from large populations, the growing demand for urbanization, these things provide a constant threat to the healthy existence of struggling watersheds. Nowhere is this truer than along the Ramapo River. Increased storm runoff and the expansion of suburbia have begun to uproot areas traditionally essential to the natural life cycle of the Ramapo River. Even major road ways such as the New York Thruway and Route 287 discharge massive amounts of pollution draining directly into the river. Motor oil, tire fragments, broken glass, assorted litter, all of it swept up by passing rain storms and added to the besieged currents.

Thankfully there are many steps that we as citizens can take to protect local water sources. Adopting sections of the river, doing cleanups, even recycling cardboard and other potential litter can improve the condition of local waterways. Preventing mud at construction sites is particularly important as soil runoff can be damaging to the sandy surfaces of brooks. Planting grass to curtail soil erosion and even trees to provide shade can do wonders for small eco-populations.

Societies have always needed watersheds, no matter what period. The Egyptians, Sumerians, the Greek city states, all relied on major waterways to sustain their way of life. Without a self-sustainable water shed, we not only cheapen our experience, but risk it for the generations to come. Unless steps are taken to defend the existence of the Ramapo water shed, the haunting charm surrounding these hills could be lost forever.

Industrial Responsibility and Residents’ Worries

By John Clancey

Industries are a funny thing; often times it brings a community to life, gives people a reason to come together. However, the industry that makes a town can often break a town; such is the dilemma with Pompton lakes NJ. After two decades of cleanups, residents have expressed concerns over health issues and property values.

Since 1902, DuPont, a munitions manufacture, has operated amongst the scenic foot hills of the Ramapo Mountains of New Jersey. Pompton Lakes, where DuPont located their munitions factory, saw much growth throughout both world wars one and two. Gradually, DuPont become one of the strongest and most successful companies in the world. However, like many other industrial powerhouses, DuPont has had its fair share of experience when it comes to improperly disposing of hazardous materials.

The materials left over from the DuPont munitions factory have infiltrated the town’s already complicated system of ground water. Chemicals such as PCE and TCE were found in contaminated residential areas, both chemicals being linked to cancer. These heavy sediments entered private residences via fumes from the basements. In 1993, the industrial scares ran as deep as to instigate over 400 residents to file a lawsuit against DuPont for health and propriety damages. In 1997 DuPont settled out of court for 38.5 million dollars.

It’s a terrifying thought, to be afraid of the very air you breathe. To worry that your young child is risking brain damage by playing with Lego’s in the den. When heavy sediments of that type settle into the ground, they spread across the region’s ground water, contaminating the area.

Recently, DuPont has called for all residents of Pompton Lakes living in contaminated areas to install filters in their basement with the hopes of removing dangerous chemicals that are still left over from their promised cleanup that was started twenty years earlier. The idea of filters doesn’t sit very well with residents, as many of them are concerned about what the negative connotation will do to their property values. "I love the town.” said resident Jim Curran, “We both grew up here, but I wouldn’t have bought this house if I knew then what I know now."

Can Soybean Oil Help Dupont's Vapor Contamination?

By Amanda Nesheiwat

DuPont has permission from the state to use soybean oil to get rid of contaminants in groundwater in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.Groundwater under a large part of the town has been contaminated by carcinogenic chemicals by DuPont, a chemical using company. DuPont plans to inject soybean oil into the soil to be a catalyst for microbes that would consume the chemicals.

According to news,hazardous chemicals such as tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene have been vaporizing into about 450 homes near Dupont’s explosive-manufacturing plant. A bioremediation specialist affiliated with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come up with what he believes would be a good solution for the contamination. He proposed that DuPont should inject soybean oil deep underground in an area of the neighborhood to test the outcome. The oil will serve as food and nutrients for microbes that naturally occur in the soil called halo-respiring bacteria. The oil will help excite these microbes which will alter the geochemistry of the groundwater allowing the microbes to eat the contaminants and release them as non-toxic byproducts.This method is deemed environmentally friendly and is cheaper than extracting, pump-and-treat or using other difficult measures to clean the contaminated groundwater.

An even cheaper and environmentally friendly way of keeping a community clean would have been to realize the effects of a chemical industry on groundwater and taken prevention measures. DuPont would not have had to get state approval to conduct experimental clean-up projects if the state of New Jersey would have monitored the operations of this company.

Some experts warned that even if injecting the oil does work, it will take many years for the groundwater to be clean. Others have warned that this kind of project has been done before in different soil and landscape and that there haven’t been enough studies done to see what the effect of this will be in Pompton Lakes. DuPont and affiliations to the EPA should recognize that Pompton Lakes has wetlands and oil can be dangerous to such a vital system.

They will begin the test area in a few months and from the results will figure out if it is an appropriate method for the rest of the neighborhood. It is unclear how many years this will take or how effective soybean oil can be. Meanwhile, Dupont is still operating a pump-and-treat system at the former plant site that was designed to reduce the level of contamination over time.

Here is a picture of how the process will look.

Source: The Record of Bergen County

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bee Colony Collapse: What's the Answer?

By Courtney Leiva

Albert Einstein once said “If bees disappear from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more population, no more men.” In the past few years numerous of bee colonies throughout America have been threatened by colony collapse disorder, which could greatly jeopardize one third of our food supply.

Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD is a mysterious disease affecting bee populations without any real explanation as to what is causing it. Some suspects include mites, viruses, and chemical exposure. When a hive is infected with CCD, the bees abandon their hive and die. The effects of CCD have been affecting bee colonies throughout the nation, as reports state that more than 35 states across the country have seen this problem.

Humans greatly rely on honey bees as these bees pollinate to crop crops including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey’s 10,000 bee colonies are valued at $250 per colony, represent a $2.5 million honey industry for the state and contribute to successful production of nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables.

“Personally, I don’t believe I know any bee keepers that have been affected. We all get occasional colony death for one reason or another but it has always been that way. In my view, the beekeepers that are most affected are the ‘big’ guys that, at least in the past, have treated bees roughly,” says Leonard Klinker a representative from the New Jersey Bee Keeper’s Association says in an email.

“One of the things that they are doing now that seems to be helping, is make sure that bees are treated more gently and given extra food supplements to help keep them strong. That helps the bees deal with exotic diseases and parasites that have been accidently brought here by other parts of the globe. The big business of a commercial pollination is extremely stressful for both the bees of and the beekeeper,” Klinker adds.

However, there is work being done to address this problem. Ice cream retailer Haaigen Daz, for instance is donating money to help fund honey bee research. Every time customers buy a carton of bee related flavors such as strawberry, proceeds go to research.

In addition to these efforts, the company also teamed up with University of California at Davis University to create a bee haven. The Bee Haven is a half-acre garden next to the Harry Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.

The haven was planted in the fall of 2009 and the grand opening celebration took place last September. The haven aims to provide bees with a year round source of food, to raise public awareness about the honey bees, as well as encouraging visitors to create and plant bee-friendly gardens at home.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pompton Lakes Getting Attention in Washington

By Virginia DiBianca

It has become too familiar of a story. A major manufacturer decides on setting up a plant in a town and hires workers. The town becomes a “company town” where the town's people work for the plant and build a life. They live in the community together, develop friendships with fellow workers, and see their children go to the same school. One day, usually due to cost cutting and restructuring, the plant closes down. The town is left with a void where once a vital industry stood. In the case of Pompton Lakes and the Dupont Company, however, the void was left with the residue of contamination that has stricken many of the residents with serious health issues and deteriorating property values.

Dupont moved into Pompton Lakes in 1902 and began manufacturing gunpowder. At the onset of WWI, the workforce was over 7,000 people and the town experienced a housing boom where it became known as a “company town”. The production level continued to escalate with World War II, when Dupont further increased the staff to an additional 3,000 employees. Development and expansion continued through the 1950s; however, downsizing began in the 80s. In April of 1994, the plant closed its doors.

It was around the 1980s, when an increase number of reports of kidney cancer and lymphoma began coming from residents residing in a concentrated area of Pompton Lakes. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that a section in Pompton Lakes near where Dupont’s plant stood showed evidence of groundwater contamination of chemicals used as cleaners and degreasers called tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which infiltrated over 400 homes built in close proximity of the infected area, via vapors from an underground concentration of chemicals called “the plume.”

While it has taken over 30 years, government officials have lately been taking a solid interest in addressing the contamination. In March of 2010, New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell committed to Pompton Lakes to bring their concerns to Washington. In May 2010, a meeting was held where Pascrell and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (who was a former head of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection) met with residents of Pompton Lakes and a high ranking Dupont official in Washington to determine what steps needed to be made to satisfy the residents and take steps to remediate the contamination. Concerns among the residents included depreciating home values and increasing reports of cancer.

While Dupont has stated they are committed to remedy the situaion, there have been debates as to the best means of containing the toxic fumes. Dupont’s latest claim is that they would conduct tests on groundwater remediation methods and to determine what the best option would be by the summer of 2011. They would also expand the list of contractors from two to ten that perform sub-slab testing that residents could use to test their home.

In January 2011, a spokesman for Dupont reported that they can see progress over the years since installing a pump-and-treat system to stop the further spread of chemicals He stated that historical data shows that, "concentrations of contaminants in the aquifer across the off-site Plume area have been going down by as much as 10 times of what they were originally measured. It is believed this reduction is the result of a combination of re-injected treated water flushing the aquifer and the natural biologic and abiotic remediation process occurring in the aquifer."

It was also reported that a bioremediation test will be conducted that consist of introducing nutrients or bacteria, "which are necessary to stimulate or accelerate biodegradation of the contaminants”.

Residents of Pompton Lakes have formed a committee called Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes (CCPL), where they are questioning whether the clean up efforts will be effective. According to a Mahwah “hazmat” consultant, Tom Darmin, “PCE and TCE are chlorinated solvents. EVERYBODY used them to 'degrease' (clean) metal parts and products (going several decades back). They were cheap and very efficient de-greasers”.

Chlorinated solvents are also known as 'sinkers' because they are heavier than water and 'sink' through the water table. Therefore, PCE and TCE can migrate deep down into the aquifer and tend to be well pollutants. When they hit an impervious layer such as bedrock or a solid layer of clay, they can migrate horizontally and sometime very quickly especially if they get into fissures where they flow with ground water within those fissures.

The PCE and TCE that collects in the 'shallow' aquifers and subsurface soils will de-gas. It is the degassing in the shallow subsurface that is one of the human health and safety concerns, as this 'off-gassing' can infiltrate through building slabs and cracks in building foundations or where sewer lines enter buildings.

Remediation? There are thoughts that an impervious vapor liner would be effective - but how to install it under established structures? The method that Dupont is currently offering residents is similar to the way radon is mitigated from basements by collecting the gases at the sub slab with a vacuum system and venting to the outside.

For more information:

History of Pompton Lakes and the Dupont plant:

Pompton Lakes residents begin suing DuPont over pollution
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pompton Lakes want answers before bioremediation project
for DuPont contamination begins
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Former DuPont Site Still Unsafe

By Lindsey de Stefan

For 92 years, a DuPont manufacturing facility called Pompton Lakes Works (PLW) operated in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. It produced blasting caps, as well as other explosives during its years in operation, including some for the United States government during both World Wars. The plant ceased operations in 1994. But what it left behind is still a looming and menacing presence 17 years later.

During almost a century in business, DuPont PLW used a number of chemicals during manufacturing in order to clean and degrease the metal and machinery they used. Some of the chemicals spilled onto the ground during that time, leaking into the soil and water, and causing environmental and health issues in the surrounding community.

In March 2008, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversaw an investigation designed to assess the extent of the damage done by the chemicals. The investigation revealed two volatile organic compounds-- tetrachloroetene and trichloroethene-- were still present in the soil and water underneath a residential neighborhood. This led to a May 2008 decision to test for hazardous vapors in a number of residences for these potential toxins. Levels aboe federal health standards were found in many of the home's basements and DuPont was directed to take actions to vent the vapors from these houses.

In 2009 a Pompton Lakes cancer cluster was reported by the Department of Health and Senior Services. It has been suggested that this significantly higher prevalence of cancer in the area is a direct result of the contamination caused by DuPont PLW. However, since rates of different cancers varied widely among men and women in the neighborhood, Pompton Lakes Mayor Kathleen Cole said that the link could not be confirmed. It could also not be ruled out as a possibility.

Regardless of whether the underground contamination is the cause of the cancer cluster, residents maintain that sufficient efforts to clean up the former DuPont site and the neighboring community have not been taken by DuPont, the EPA, or any other environmental agency. Despite residents' complaints to federal offices, it is still not listed as an EPA Superfund site. Clean-up oversight has been handled by the NJDEP.Pompton Lakes residents, fearful of the increasing cancer rates and other potential hazards of the soil, continue to push for a proper clean up of the area.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cancer Cluster Sparks Town Discussion

By Deanna Dunsmuir

An open meeting was held in Pompton Lakes on Wednesday to discuss resident concerns of basement vapors and elevated cancer rates compared with other towns.

These concerns were heightened by a cancer study by the Society of Interventional Radiology, that concluded that certain cancer rates, such as lung and colorectal cancer, were found to be statistically elevated in Pompton Lakes residents, as reported by the New Jersey Department of Health.

This data however failed to directly link the elevated cancer levels to the soil contamination.

The analysis was conducted in response to a request by Mayor Katie Cole, who wanted answers for residents living above a plume of contamination, reported

Long History of Cleanups

The former E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company Pompton Lakes Works (DuPont
PLW)operated from 1902 to 1994. The company left the town in 1995, beginning years of cleanups and research pertaining to soil and water contamination and medical disorders of residents. The Company worked on explosives and the chemicals left behind have been linked to elevated levels of cancers.

The dangers that arose from the explosives making company came from run-off migration,into local streams and the underground aquifer, and as a result, soil vapor intrusion into a number of homes.

The Dangers of Soil Vapor

Soil vapor can enter buildings through cracks in foundation, pump wells and through household piping. The NJDEP has ordered indoor air testing for households in the area. The installation of a vapor mitigation system in households affected by the contamination are supplied free of cost to residents by DuPont. The system is said to reduce risks of vapor contamination, however the life-span of the fan is 8-10, as reported by the NJDEP.

The life-span of the fans decrease if near moist air, which most residents exhibit due to their close proximity to the water.

Although the chemical remediation is being paid for by Dupont, residents have also raised the concern that some property taxes in the area exceed the mortgage rates for homeowners. Given the high flood risk for homes near a stream from the plant site, the soil contamination and the elevated levels of cancer in the area- some residents wonder who is really footing the bill.

Organizing for Answers

As talks of contamination from the DuPont/Pompton Lakes works exceed 15 years, townspeople continue to demand answers and feasible solutions. Town meetings continue to be held, such as the Wednesday public discussion, to share information and ask questions of officials.

To Reduce Flooding, Structure of Ramapo River is Altered

By Brittany Shann

One of the biggest problems caused by the Ramapo River is the issue of flooding, which has been prevalent for decades  These floods cost millions of dollars worth of damages, with the highest being $9, 500, 000 in April 1984.  The amount of money and the inconveniences caused by these floods motivated the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to launch a project that seeks to decrease these issues.

The flooding from the Ramapo River has been caused by the backwater effect produced by the Pompton Lake Dam, hydraulic constrictions produced by bridges crossing the river, and insufficient channel capacity, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.  With these being the three main problems, the agency sought to construct a variety of facets that would resolve flooding along the Ramapo River.  The three resolutions included relocation of the Doty Road Bridge, channel modification of 5, 800 feet, and the installation of flood control gates at the Pompton Lake Dam. 

The project was sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and authorized for construction under the Water Resources Development Act.

The project was completed in a year at a total cost of $21, 600, 000 and is operated and maintained by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  There have been recorded complaints from residents that the flooding issue hasn’t been resolved.

After the Nor’easter in March 2010, the NJDEP requested a post-flood report from the US Army Corps of Engineers.  This was issued in July 2010 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act issued funds to perform repairs to the mitigation weir in Oakland that was damaged in the April 2007 nor’easter.  Construction of these repairs just recently began in February of 2011.

These projects were designed to resolve flooding problems of the Ramapo River, and save millions of dollars in damages.  Many residents still worry what the next heavy rains will bring to riverside communities.

For more information or to contact the project coordinator, please visit:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Putting a Bounty Out For BP: The Importance of Environmental Regulations

Letter to the editor:

Is April 20, 2010 already ancient history? I certainly hope not. In case you have forgotten, this date marked the beginning of the infamous BP oil spill. Of course, the massive leak wasn’t capped for more than two months after it sprung. The spill was one of the worst environmental disasters brought on by human hands in our entire history. It is estimated that more than 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico each day. The damage was vast and devastating, affecting many species of wildlife and wearing out various ecosystems. This does not include the people who rely on the Gulf as their only source of income.

The U.S. Department of the Interior supervises the Minerals Management Service, in charge of reviewing the environmental impact of such drilling operations. Unfortunately, the government did not do its part in properly assessing the dangers of drilling in deep water. Those responsible for preventing a disaster like the spill from happening were too busy enjoying the perks given to them by corporate executives with BP. As a result, a catastrophic spill that could have been avoided instead did immeasurable damage to our environment.

It angers me deeply that we allow money to cloud our moral judgment so badly nothing else seems to matter. Money has the power to influence otherwise good people to look the other way while blatant criminal acts are committed. Money carries enough weight to determine the way our government governs. We allow corporations to have free reign under deregulation to do as they please. We act as though they have our best interest at heart when in fact we know that the only interest of any corporation is profit. It never seems to matter who gets hurt as long as the money keeps pouring in and investors are happy.

Not even 6 months after the oil stopped pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, BP managed to turn a profit. Early November of 2010, BP reported a net profit of $1.79 billion. During the clean up, BP was said to have been losing $16 million a day. However, they were bringing in $66 million in profit per day. In 2009, BP made $14 billion. So even if the clean up cost them that same amount, they would only have to go a year before making a profit again. Clearly, it took much less than that. Despite the long-term damage caused to the environment, BP will continue on with barely a scratch.

For the sake of our very existence, we must change our priorities as human beings. The planet can’t survive forever under such frequent abuse. How much more evidence do we need before we realize the importance of regulating corporations? In theory it should all make perfect sense. We elect our government officials to carry out our wishes. We don’t elect our corporate executives. So why are we so opposed to letting the government regulate corporations like BP so they can’t get away with such atrocities? If the bottom line for a corporation is profit, why do we believe for a second that they care about our best interest? These are just a few of the many questions I ask in frustration and with the utmost concern for my planet. Will we learn before it's too late?

Dan Savino

Revelations From The Road: What Mother Nature Taught Me

By Dan Savino

I’ve come to find out that true joy can’t be manufactured. Serenity doesn’t come in a pill and love can’t be bought. In the same way, natural beauty can’t be built. Human hands can erect towering, intricate skyscrapers but they will never be able to reproduce that which comes natural. I am speaking of the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park, the hoodoos that come to life in Bryce Canyon and the giant redwoods that sprinkle California’s northern coastline.

This past summer I drove cross-country with my best friend. It was the first time in my life I had been off the east coast. I spent time in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Salt Lake City and many others. However, this wasn’t the best part of my trip. Nothing I saw as I crossed state lines stuck with me more than the natural landscapes did. I was in awe, absolutely fascinated and captivated by my surroundings. Suddenly the sky opened up and I felt as small as an ant. I had no idea how beautiful and diverse America was. There was everything from mountains and canyons to beaches, forests and desert. I had never seen a real, snow-capped mountain until we arrived in Colorado and I laid my eyes on the Rockies. I also saw my first redwood and cactus along the way.

Although human beings had no hand in creating our natural environment, they do have the power to damage and destroy it. Unfortunately, in a competitive, capitalistic society like ours, the most important things are profit and power. Corporations tend to focus on how to save money at any cost to the environment. If it costs less to dump waste into a natural water source, they will. If they decide to build a new warehouse or factory, they will destroy forests or swamps that stand in the way. The environment is always an afterthought. How is it that BP made a profit in the same year that they were responsible for the biggest oil spill in human history?

Fortunately, there are people who do understand the importance of conserving and protecting our natural resources. It seems our only hope of saving our environment is with everyday citizens standing up and creating grassroots campaigns to stand up to corporations and government projects that threaten it. Conservation efforts and environmental protection have finally become a legitimate issue in American politics and society. It is possible today for the government to protect natural resources and animals from harm. A perfect example of average people making a difference is the case of the Great Swamp.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wanted to pave the Great Swamp to build a new airport. Neighbors in the surrounding area rallied around the cause of saving the swamp. In five years time, they managed to gain the support of more than four hundred civic organizations in twenty-nine states and raise over four million dollars to buy the land that made up the swamp. With determination and commitment, ordinary people were able to have the land dedicated as a national wildlife refuge.

The lesson to be learned here is that it only takes a couple people to stand up and start a movement for change to come about. The natural beauty we possess is invaluable and worth protecting. My trip cross-country only reinforced this undeniable fact. The joy I felt in my moments with nature is indescribable and impossible to manufacture. Standing atop Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, looking down the depths of a breathtaking canyon, I found myself completely at peace. Times spent seeing places like the Enchanted Circle and Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico, Mount Shasta and Yosemite Falls in California, and even the desert in Death Valley, made me realize the importance of nature. If people don’t fight to conserve the environment, not only will we lose the beauty that comes naturally on this planet, we also won’t be able to survive as a species. If we continue to destroy our environment, there won’t be air to breath or sun to soak in. Really, it’s life or death. You choose.