Friday, May 11, 2012

State of the Ramapo River


The Ramapo River is a popular destination for trout and fly fishermen and a retreat for families in the summer. Part of the Passaic River Basin, it is the most populated river in Northern New Jersey.

On the surface, the river looks to be in great condition and a safe haven for wildlife. However, looked at more closely, the river is heavily polluted due to commercial development over the last few decades. Also, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, industrial companies used the river as a hazardous waste disposal site.

The Ford Motor Company, which had a major assembly plant in Mahwah, New Jersey, infamously dumped toxic paint sludge in the area. Within neighborhoods and towns, Ford dumped gallons and gallons of paint sludge and even used the Ramapo River as a dumping ground. When Ford was confronted, they at first refused to clean up the area. However, after mounting pressure, they soon began a cleanup effort.

Unfortunately, they didn’t clean up all of the waste and still to this day, there are sludge deposits in sections of the area.

More recently, Hurricane Irene made landfall in Northern New Jersey in August of 2011 and destroyed many neighborhoods across the state. The Ramapo River was no exception and suffered many of Irene’s effects. The river was subjected to an oil spill because of the hurricane. The spill was traced back to an oil company in Tuxedo, New York and threatened many families as the Ramapo River provides water to many homes in the region.

Also during the hurricane, major flooding was a major problem in the aftermath of the storm. The Ramapo River, which is known for its flooding problem, was also subject to high levels. Flooding is a major factor in water pollution. As the water overflows and makes landfall, debris and contaminants get into the water. As the water recedes, the debris and contaminates are taken back into the river.

Another contributor to the river’s polluted state is one that isn’t so thought about. Road salt, used during the winter by road crews and homes, pollutes water a great deal. As snow and ice melt, road salt gets taken away and is dumped into drainage systems by the water. Also, as winter turns to spring, rain showers do the same thing. With the amount of salt that is used every winter, with the exception of this past one, it can become a major problem in years to come that may be too late to remedy.

The Ramapo River is a beautiful scene in Bergen County, New Jersey. Unfortunately, due to human error and natural occurrences, the water isn’t as clean as it should be. Recognizing the factors that promote water pollution and eradicating them is a long process that requires work. However, I do not rule it out of the realm of possibility to at least make an attempt to help change the state of the Ramapo River.

Luan Madani is a senior at Ramapo College majoring in Sociology.

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