By Molly Rothberg
Immediately after Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast hard near the end of August last year, residents in New York began to express concern about an oil smell coming from the Ramapo River. The oil spill became a huge threat to local residents, especially because the river is a major drinking water source for thousands of people.
The river, which is about 30 miles long, runs through southern New York and northern New Jersey, including Mahwah near the Ramapo College campus. A local oil company in Tuxedo Park, NY, M. Spiegel & Sons Oil Corporation (SOS), was linked to the spill when the company’s trucks and fuel oil tanks became flooded after Irene and became submerged near the river.
In an article in The New York Times, SOS’s owner, Jeff Spiegel, explained the reason for the spill. "This leakage into the river, he said, occurred when a breach in an upstream dam sent a wall of water into his area," the Times reported.
Spiegel said he was not sure how much oil had made it into the river. The Times reported that SOS “is working with state environmental and hazardous waste teams to contain the situation.”
The leakage cleanup was then followed through by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which included using vacuums to clean the water. Ever since the fuel oil cleanup after Irene, residents have been able to drink the water from the river without any concern, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although it’s been nearly six months since the tropical storm, other debris that it created, including piles of trees and trash, is still in the clean-up process led by the Rockland County, NY Drainage Agency. Sites near Rockland County are still in recovery considering they sustained the most damage from the Ramapo River that flows into major areas of the county.