Monday, April 23, 2012

Current State of the Ramapo River's Waters

By Vanessa Camargo

The Ramapo River is part of the Passaic River Basin, a network of rivers that flows into Newark Bay and New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. The Ramapo River is estimated to be 30 miles long and it is known to be the most heavily populated river in the northern New Jersey area.

To the naked eye, the river does not appear to be as polluted as it truly is. The reality is that the quality of the water in the Ramapo River is contaminated, mainly due to widespread urban and suburban commercial development. Another cause for the pollution is urban storm water runoff. Industrial and past hazardous waste site disposal are also noted as sources of poor water quality, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

One of the most infamous causes of the Ramapo River’s current state is due to the former Ford Motor Company plant in Mahwah. A few decades ago, Ford produced six million cars and trucks. Tons of pollution was created that was dumped in Mahwah and neighboring towns’ forest and rivers. This threatened the region’s most important watershed.

Near the end of August last year, the river faced an oil spill after Hurricane Irene passed through the area. Many residents vocalized their worries on a smell that came from the river, and an oil spill was traced upstream to M. Spiegel & Sons Oil Corporation in Tuxedo, NY. This was a concern for many of Mahwah’s residents because they get their drinking water from the Ramapo River.

After Hurricane Irene, several trucks and fuel storage tanks were flooded. Jeff Spiegel, owner of SOS, said that the flooded trucks and tanks were empty. He claimed that the oil leakage was a result of a crack in an upstream dam that sent an immense amount of water into his area.

Spiegel’s statement shouldn’t be entirely out ruled. The Ramapo River is known for having a big flooding problem for the past decades. The Pompton Lake Dam has produced a backwater effect that has flooded homes upstream along the Ramapo River an infinite number of times. The Army Corps of Engineers is trying to institute a variety of plans, including using flood gates on the Pompton Lake dam, to stop the flooding issue.

It has been recently discovered that road salt used for the winter is a contributor to the river problem. People use road salt to keep their driveways and streets clean. This may become a constant problem every year, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

However, people can get involved in helping clean up the Ramapo River. The first step is to become aware of the problem. Once the issue becomes clear to the citizens of Mahwah, they can start getting involved. The first step to take would be to contact an environmental group and ask questions on how to get involved.

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