Monday, April 30, 2012

Obama Deals on Environment Enabled by Lack of Media Coverage

To the Editor:

          In response to “Obama’s Compromises on the Environment are as Destructive as Bush’s Ignorance,” I want to thank for reporting on the president’s environmental policies.  The obvious lack of such reporting in major publications is, I believe, the reason that environmental issues have been put on the back burner in current politics. 
          In the article, Brian Merchant gives Obama credit for his obvious understanding of climate change and other environmental issues, as well as his good intentions on the matter.  However, Merchant also explains that the green community is largely disappointed by the fact that Obama’s policies thus far have “weakened more environmental protections than Bush.”  I believe that it is precisely this lack of reporting of environmental issues and policies that removes the green discussion from the list of “important” issues that the presidential candidates have been focusing on (the economy, job creation, etc.). 
          However, let’s not forget: Obama’s term thus far provides a pattern of respectable, reasonable, moderate, and well-thought-out actions and decisions on his part; while the actions and decisions of Republican leaders can be accurately described as rash, extreme, and desperate (to damage Obama’s reputation, that is).  They have countered Obama’s willingness to compromise with staunch stubbornness.  The real question is: how much longer can Obama afford to compromise his beliefs and values? cites a clear example of how the President’s eagerness to compromise has backfired in his environmental policy.
          By now, the Republicans have made it clear that they aren’t willing to play along with Obama’s policy of reasonable compromise.  Many of Obama’s supporters have recently urged him to try tougher tactics and stick to his guns on issues like the environment.  Perhaps they are right, or perhaps Obama prefers getting something done, even if in small doses (through compromise), rather than nothing. 
          Furthermore, his current situation with a Republican-dominated Congress makes it difficult for our President to pass any legislation whatsoever without bipartisanship.  The next congressional election will occur parallel to the presidential one, and the Democrats will have a chance to gain Senate seats.  In order to pass policies that do not involve compromises, Obama needs a Senate majority.  So, Democrats, give Obama another chance…by getting out to vote in the presidential and Congressional elections.  I think he’s earned it by doing the best possible job running our country, as he took office at a time when our country was left in great distress by the previous administration.  Obama’s resolve to be more aggressive is already developing, but I believe that during his next term is when he will really get his hands dirty. 
          Environmental issues are often overlooked in news.  Again, more news coverage of environmental issues and policies would help to push politicians (especially presidential candidates) to address them during their campaigns and terms. 

Bliss Sando

For original article, see:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ramapo College Students to Present Environmental Report on Proposed Mall


Contact: Barbara Bodden

Environmental Report by Ramapo College Students
on Proposed Mahwah Mall to be Presented Wednesday

Mahwah, NJ—An environmental impact statement for the proposed Crossroads mall that was developed by Ramapo College students is set to be presented Wednesday at the Municipal Center.  The public hearing in the Council Chambers at the Richard J. Martel Municipal Center, 475 Corporate Drive, will begin at 7 p.m., when environmental studies students will discuss the potential impacts that development on the site could present to the community and surrounding environment. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

Mahwah’s Environmental Commission with support from Mayor William C. Laforet, in an effort to encourage collaboration between the community and the college, asked Professor Michael Edelstein’s Environmental Assessment Capstone Class to prepare an environmental impact statement comparing potential impacts of four alternative scenarios for the property that is now home to the Sheraton Crossroads Hotel and Sharp corporate offices.  The students compared the proposed retail development’s impacts to those of a regional hospital, residential development and a “no-build” alternative. 

An environmental impact statement is an analysis of potential socio-economic, physical and ecological impacts that an action or development could have on many different “indicators” or factors.  Each student was assigned an indicator including health and safety, groundwater, surface water, flora/fauna, visual, climate/air, energy, psychosocial, cultural, environmental justice, noise, material cycling and socioeconomic impacts. 

Two indicators that residents are most concerned about are traffic and toxic contaminants.  This is because the property sits at the intersection of two major highways, route 287 and 17, which already have congestion during commuter and weekend peak hours.  It was also the home to Ford Motor Company’s biggest manufacturing plant from 1955 to 1980 and has a history of volatile organic compound contamination. The site borders the Ramapo River, a regional water supply stream that feeds municipal wells.  

The students will also suggest mitigations to avoid certain impacts and recommend what they believe to be the best use of the site. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ramapo Students, Faculty Protest Pipeline

By Diana Stanczak 

          Pop quiz: Where does the name “Ramapo” originate from?
          The answer is from the Ramapough Lenape Indians, and Ramapo College shares more with these Native Americans than just a name.
          For the past few months, a handful of students and professors have been working with members of the Ramapough Lenape tribe to protest the expansion of a gas pipeline. The pipeline, proposed by the Tennessee Gas Company, would run through about 1.4 acres of the Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Bergen County’s largest park area located down the street from Ramapo College. The pipeline has raised concerns about the destruction of cultural and historical sights, as well as possible water contamination, among residents of Mahwah and surrounding towns.
          Chief Mann of the Ramapough Lenape is trying to raise awareness about the pipeline in order to stop its construction.
          “What we are standing up against now is only the tip of the mountain, if we don't all fall in line to protect our Grand Mother Earth now, they will be giving the green light to continue to destroy her. We all will be the ones left here to die for the lack of having a clean drinking water supply if we don't stand together as one,” Mann wrote in an email.
          The concern about water contamination stems from the fact that the proposed pipeline would transport gas obtained by induced hydroulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Fracked gas is obtained by injecting highly pressurized fluids into methane gas deposits to draw out the valuable natural gas. The problem lies within the methane leaks and the fractures to the earth caused by the pressure, contaminating the surrounding site.
          “During this process [fracking] over 700 chemicals are forced into the earth and causing the shale to crack. There is no way to control where or what these chemicals crack, such as the bedrock which opens the door for these chemicals to enter into our water supply,” Mann wrote.
          Some Ramapo professors, like Neriko Doerr, Jan Barry Crumb and Chuck Stead are incorporating these issues into their classes.
          Students in Doerr’s World Cultures class had a discussion with Chief Perry of the Ramapo Lenape.  Students in Crumb’s and Stead’s classes attended environmental lectures and were invited to participate in protests against the pipeline.
          Senior Jillian Banks supports the pipeline protests.
          “[It is important] to make the students aware of the threat and possible injustice to the people being affected by the pipeline, and how the environment will be impacted negatively,” Banks said.
          In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that the pipeline would not have a significant impact on any surrounding land, but not everyone is convinced.
          “We are asking that humans take a stand not just for what we think is right, but for one the very essential part of life.... our water, and to stand with those who are fully committed to protect it as well,” Mann wrote.

This article also appeared in The Ramapo News.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Saving Lands and Lakes Takes Work

By Luan Madani

          "Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns" is a very interesting yet crucially important writing on the aspect of saving environmental sites. Frankly, living in the United States we as American citizens tend to think of our land when we think of environmental issues at all. However, all over the world there is land that is severely in need of attention. We are not the only culprits of degrading land and taking advantage of the Earth and what it has to offer. With knowledge of information such as provided in "Saving a Swamp," we can raise awareness and take the necessary steps to save what we have now and preserve for the future.
          In Vernon, New Jersey, there are many lakes and streams. It is also the home of Wawayanda State Park, where visitors from all across the tri-state area come every spring and summer. In the Highland Lakes lake community in Vernon, Lake Wanda is a large lake that sits next to the five lakes that make up the lake community. Over the years, Lake Wanda has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. There have been many movements within the community to help clean up the lake; however, none of them materialized.
          A few years ago, the community wanted to drain the lake; however, environmental advocates opposed that as they thought it would destroy any wildlife in the lake. While it is good to see people gather together to help with causes such as these, sometimes they go without resolution. As of today, the lake is still there; however, the lake is still in need of maintenance. To my knowledge, there is no word on any resolution to clean up the lake.
          The usual problem is that many people that live in the area do not know the condition of the lake. They can obviously see that it is contaminated, however, they do not know the extent of contamination. Also, people just simply do not care about the lake. This is unfortunate for obvious reasons and people should pay more attention to issues such as these because it ultimately affects the land that they live on. As younger generations grow older, it is my feeling that these issues are becoming forgotten.
          "Saving a Swamp" is a good look into these issues and how it can be changed if we just take the time to care of the lands that we live on. In my opinion, if we are to restore and preserve our lands, the value will increase and quality of life will be better. It will take rigorous work from environmentalists and citizens but I feel that our environmental goals are not completely out of reach.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Caux Round Table to Discuss Sustainable Global Markets


Contact: Jed Ipsen 651-223-2863

Global Dialogue on Sustainability
to be Held at Caux Round Table

          St. Paul Minnesota--The Caux Round Table has announced their 2012 global dialogue will take place in Caux, Switzerland on July 29-31.
          The economy in the West is in great turmoil. Debt and self-interest has become the norm for people in the West, which has resulted in an overly stressed population. If the free market is to remain, a serious intervention is needed. Government and regulators play a vital role in this reform, but business leadership is the key to success. Concern about this crisis is growing. The Financial Times has released a series of commentaries on the issue at hand.
          According to the Financial Times, “Since Adam Smith, intelligent defenders of free markets have known that capitalism works best when people’s free choices are also governed by moral values.”
          The Caux Round Table has been around for 26 years, and has grown both strategically and intellectually with principles and management tools to make moral capitalism a reality. Participants in the Global Dialogue will speak about their experiences and views on the global economy. The focus is on challenges facing businesses and decision makers on a national and international level.
          There are four major areas that will be discussed. The role of governments, the repositioning of banking, new rating agencies and valuation methodology, and a revision of the financial theory.
          To register, please visit and for more information and a preliminary agenda, visit the website as well.
          For more information:

-- Amanda Daley

What Would Rachel Carson Think of My Summer Job?

By Samuel Arnowitz

          After the class assignment to read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, I was intrigued to find out what kind of footprint I’m leaving behind.
          For a short while, I worked for a “green” pest control company; what made it green, I do not know. While searching around online, I stumbled onto an online ecological footprint survey and thought it would be interesting to take. The survey was and is being run by the Global Footprint Network; it consisted of a series of questions concerning how I live, what I eat, what I consume regularly, how I dispose of waste, what my home is like, what my family is like, my driving habits and my electrical expenses. I had thought I was doing all right, but my score was not so great.
          It turns out that if everyone on the planet were to live the entirety of their lives  the way I do, we would need 4.9 planets to sustain life here on Earth. And, at the end of the survey I was recorded as a contributor to the global environmental and ecological footprint. My immediate and defensive thought was, “What a great way to get people to become environmentally conscious, blame them!” The site then gave me the reasons why I scored so low and how I can improve my lifestyle.
          Unfortunately, I had to submit to the survey information about my previous summer job and I can’t help but think that it was a major contributor to my low grade. If Rachel Carson were to find out about this, I believe that she would surly be disappointed.
          The survey, however, was indeed an eye opener and I will redoubtedly be making a valiant effort to clean up my act.   

Sussex County Celebrates Earth Day with Series of Events


Contact: Samuel Arnowitz

Sussex County to Celebrate Earth Day 
with Focus on Saving Energy

          This Saturday, April 21st not not just another blessed day off from work and school, it is a day to celebrate Earth Day as well. The year was 1970, the Sixties were over, Rachel Carson had published Silent Spring and “Environment” was the buzz word of every women, child, and man. We as a country united and celebrated our first Earth Day. It has been 42 years since the first Earth Day and they are getting better every year. Up here in Sussex county things are getting better as well.
          The Sussex County Solid Waste Disposal and Recycling Facility in Lafayette is hosting a public celebration in honor of Earth Day. The focus of the celebration this year will be on renewable energy and energy conservation. All of the following activities will be available to all who attend:.

• Pot a free tree. The trees, which are donated by the New Jersey Forest Service, can be taken home to plant.
• Learn about composting with AG Choice, LLC.
• Learn about hazards to the environment from the Sussex County HAZMAT Team.
• Interactive displays by Sussex County Clean Communities and Mosquito Control.
• Operation Quiet Comfort will allow people to recycle old jeans and pay tribute to the armed forces.
• Learn secrets about transforming landfill gas to electricity from Energenic, LLC.
• Hands-on lessons about watershed facilitated by AmeriCorp Watershed Ambassadors.
• Learn about new energy technologies at the Alternative Energy Corner.
          I encourage all of my fellow Highlanders to attend with their families and for those of you who cannot make it, I challenge you this year to go out on a hike with an empty garbage bag and come back with a full one.

Gas Pipeline Muddies Highlands Waters

By Samuel Arnowitz

          A new pipeline for the Highlands! It seems as though despite many protests from many groups and organizations, the natural gas pipeline that is planned to be routed through the New Jersey Highlands has jumped another hurdle, that hurdle being the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council. That’s right, the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council has “okayed” the project to go forward in the state of New Jersey even though this proposed pipeline, that will be 7.6 miles long, will be cutting through several New Jersey state parks that are the heart of the New Jersey Highlands and could endanger other environmentally sensitive sites.
          The plan, according to Governor Christie’s administration, is that the new pipeline will take advantage of Pennsylvania and New York’s natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale, thus lowering the cost here in New Jersey. Again, just a short sighted solution for a much bigger problem.
          This pipeline is set to run through thousands of acres of woodlands that contain rivers and lakes that provide drinking water for about half of New Jersey’s residents. This is not only a problem due to the nature of the construction of the pipeline itself but also due to the physical environment of the Highlands; meaning the mountains that the pipeline will cross will certainly erode, causing sediments to wash into water ways.
          As a resident of the Highlands and an avid hiker, I experienced the installation of the most recent pipeline first hand. The trail head of a trail that I run most frequently during the summer is located less than a half mile down the street and right on the pipeline. I witnessed the surveying, the deforestation, the blasting, the laying of pipe, and the “clean-up” in what I considered to be my back yard. It is only now that crews have come back to clean up our community lake and replant trees. For over a year, I have seen the problems that this erosion to the land can cause.
          The pipeline runs up and down the mountains from one ridge to another; in-between these ridges are rivers and lakes that all feed and are water ways for the Highlands reservoirs. The effects of the erosion could clearly be seen, the rich, clear, clean water had become thick and muddy almost instantly.

DuPont/Pompton Lakes Update

By Samuel Arnowitz

          Residents of Pompton Lakes have been pushing for a sediment clean up in Pompton Lake by DuPont this spring during public hearings. Sediment in an area of the lake, which is a public water supply and popular fishing area, is contaminated with lead and mercury from DuPont's past industrial operations. Also present at some of these hearing have been the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; this agency has submitted new written reports on the on going project.
          Written comments from citizens of the town as well as the written comments from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must be responded to by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has not responded as of yet. EPA spokesperson David Kluesner has said that the EPA is still reviewing the feedback from these public hearings. What has been confirmed by the EPA is that they expect to a decision will be made this summer and that the project will start sometimes in 2013. EPA has constructed a time line and presented it to the EPA-sponsored Community Advisory Group for the DuPont clean up in Pompton Lakes.
          DuPont will also be responsible for the removal of chlorinated solvents in the groundwater that came from the former DuPont Plant.

Ramapo River Issues: Flood Debris and Erosion

By Samuel Arnowitz

          I recently had the pleasure of hiking the banks of the Ramapo River. I knew what was ahead of me, I knew what to expect; I could see the garbage and erosion from the road.The Ramapo River is in shambles and the people of every town that it runs through are desperately trying to do something about it.
          Last week in Oakland, state officials gathered to hear the cries of its residents concerning the Ramapo River. The residents, all from Oakland, included members of the Oakland Flood Commission. Among the state officials was a representative from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and an aid to U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett.
          The issues that were raised concerned an area of the town know as Crystal Lake, a private area adjacent to the Ramapo River; The concern is silt and erosion. Since last year's hurricane flooding, 30 feet of yard has been lost to the river and similarly in another case, a shed that once sat 20 feet away from the river is now teetering on a cliff. Unfortunately, no resolutions were discussed by the state officials and the river is still in poor shape and getting worse.
          “A little farther down the line” (to quote Johnny Cash) in Pompton Lakes, the Ramapo River has been receiving treatment. Crews have been working with heavy machinery to pull debris from the the river. These heavy machines have been hauling trees, branches and, slit from the banks of the river. The town received $87,500 dollars from the NJDEP to make repairs along the river.

World Sustainability Issues

By Samuel Arnowitz

          Every day, the world population accelerates in size and has done so more in the last decade then it ever has before. The fertility rates as well as recent advances in the medical field and the decline in death rates are the two leading causes of over population today. No longer does famine and disease carry the same weight in population control that they once did.
          Statistics show that on average the world inherits another billion people every thirteen years; this number is astronomical. It has been predicted that by the year 2050 the world population will reach somewhere between 9 and 9.5 billion people. As it is now, the Earth can not support numbers such as these. If things do not change in the near future, we will reach the tipping point and the Human Race on this planet will be doomed.
          Problems that will arise shortly if nothing is done; The depletion of clean water today is already an issue in some countries. In years to come water will be cause enough for war. Rivers in west Asia are becoming possibly intermittent. Increased deforestation as well as the depletion in croplands and agricultural sites will lead to a decline in food accessibility.
          It, however, is possible to stabilize life on Earth and prepare a better future for Mankind. Rules and regulations must be strictly enforced concerning the environment around us. The people of this world must become more environmentally friendly. Birth rates must be cut and controlled. The way we as a people view population, water, food, time, and especially education must be reevaluated.
          Sustainability issues must be addressed if we wish the generations to come to live good lives.

           Sustainable Development Timeline:
1969 – National Environmental Policy Act – This act set the basis for the environmental influence assessment in the world.
1970 – First Earth Day - A national teaching on the environment and why we should take care of it.
1971 – Polluters Pay Principle – Those polluting should pay a cost. This warns major polluters of the actions that will be taken.
1975 - World Watch Institute established in U.S – Helped raise public awareness of global environmental threats. 
1990 – UN Summit for Children – Important recognition of the impact of the environment on future generations.
1992 – Earth Summit – UN conference on environment and protection. This is where Action 21 was agreed.
2000 – Increasing Urbanization – Almost half the world’s population now lives in cities that occupy less then two percent of the earth's land but use 75 percent of the earth’s resources. This is a huge blow towards the push to be sustainable.

Highland’s New Natural Gas Pipeline Plan

By Vanessa Camargo

           The New Jersey Highlands Council approved a plan in January to install a natural gas pipeline that would stretch from West Milford into Ringwood and end in Mahwah, making that 7.6 miles long. The pipeline was said to go under the Monksville Reservoir in West Milford. Its location would be in the Highlands Preservation Area, where development is limited to preserve the water supply. The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council raised many concerns, while agreeing in the end that the project should go onward.
Roxbury Mayor Jim Rilee, Highlands Council’s new chairman, said he believes the council staff came up with a great plan for a pipeline that will help decrease its effect on the environment.
There was a lot of opposing talk about the pipeline from certain environmental groups. Campaign coordinator for the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, Erika Van Auken, said constructing the pipeline would augment the flooding situation near Lake Lookover in West Milford. Gretchen Krueger, a Tennessee Gas spokeswoman, replied by saying the floods were primarily caused by an extreme amount of rain during construction.
Director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter, Jeff Tittel, said the pipeline would create a number of problems. He thought that construction of the pipeline would result in acres of forests being cut down. He believed that this would ultimately cause harm to the water supply and would ruin the Highlands’ natural environment.
During a three and a half hour hearing on February 16 in Chester, the project stirred up more issues. The Christie administration’s new Energy Master Plan urged New Jersey to expand on its natural gas pipeline so that they could benefit from cheaper natural gas that would come from the Marcellus Shale deposits in Pennsylvania and New York. A lot of the current controversy was brought about after hearing these kinds of motives for installing this new pipeline.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline project opponents informed the Council that building a new gas pipeline along an existing right-of-way would endanger water supplies, mainly because the route runs up and down sharp slopes in the Highlands, which would increase erosion that will wash into the watershed.
Jim Rilee assured the audience that the Highlands Council members are taking precautions to guarantee the necessary upgrades to utility infrastructure will be handled in a responsible way with important safeguards for the environment and residents.
Various speakers disputed that the project should not have been an exception of strict rules governing what projects move forward in the Highlands preservation area because the proposal suggested an expansion of a pipeline, not an upgrade. Jeff Tittel responded by saying that this was a new pipeline, not an upgrade. He said that no matter the requirements, there will always be erosion.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the final say on where the project will go from here. They have still not made a decision on the pipeline expansion. The council's recommendation to move the project forward is now in the hands of the state Department of Environmental Protection. They can either approve or reject the Highlands Council verdict that the project is consistent with the Highlands Act.

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.

Contamination of the Ramapo River Has Many Sources

By Bliss Sando

The Ramapo River, which flows for approximately 30 miles from southern New York into northern New Jersey, is a key part of the region’s watershed.  Over the past year, however, several instances of severe weather—specifically Hurricane Irene in August of 2011—caused the Ramapo River to flood the lands around it.  Damage to houses, roads, bridges, railroads, and other structures was severe, but these floods caused another, less discussed type of damage to the river itself. 

Storm water runoff in the Ramapo River area is the main contributor to the pollution of the river.  The “extensive urbanization and suburban/commercial development of the area” causes storm water runoff to have elevated levels of contamination, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.  Furthermore, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s report on the Ramapo Aquifer Systems, of which the Ramapo River is a part, states that the water is “vulnerable to contamination” because of the permeability of the region’s soil and the “unconfined” nature of the aquifer systems. 

The pollution of the Ramapo River should be of the utmost concern to the communities that live around it because it is part of the aquifer that provides them the majority of their drinking water.  The EPA’s report also states that “the potential exists for incidents of surface water contamination to affect public supply wells.”  Too much contamination of the Ramapo River and its larger aquifer could cause a public health risk. 

Unfortunately, storm water runoff is not the only source of pollution for the Ramapo River.  In fact, as the EPA states, “incidents of contamination have already occurred in the Ramapo River Basin.”  For example, the 96-acre Ramapo Landfill Site in Ramapo, New York was found to be a substantial source of the contamination of ground and surface water pollution in the area with volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and phenols, according to the EPA. 

Ford Motor Company’s plant in Mahwah, New Jersey also left a legacy of toxic waste dumped in and around the watershed.  This waste, which is spread out over miles of land in northern New Jersey and southern New York, has yet to be fully removed and therefore is still a threat to the Ramapo River. 

Another cause of pollution for the Ramapo River Basin is the discharge of wastewater directly into the water.  The densely populated areas that surround the river cause an abundance of municipal as well as residential wastewater to enter the Ramapo River system. 

Pollution of the Ramapo River Basin remains a serious problem, and one that is dealt with as it comes instead of being prevented.  Not only does this contamination threaten the quality of the drinking water for residents near the river, it also threatens the species of animals and plants that live in the river basin.  It seems that the core cause of all of this pollution is the excessive development in the highly populated areas around the Ramapo River. 

In their report entitled “Rivers in Danger,” Travis Madsen, Douglas O’Malley, and Dena Mottola acknowledge the fact that pollution to the Ramapo River Basin and other New Jersey tributaries endangers the plants and animals of the region as well as the people.  The report states that, “Places like the Highlands are home to over 247 threatened and endangered species, in addition to providing an important waypoint for migrating birds.” 

Environmental groups that work to protect the Ramapo River Basin and other nearby rivers include the Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Council, the Passaic River Coalition, the New Jersey Sierra Club, and the Edison Wetlands Association.  In addition to conducting scientific studies that analyze the effects of water pollution in and around the Ramapo River, these groups appeal directly to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to advocate for and defend policies that protect rivers from pollution. 

Earth Day Hike and Caring for Ringwood Day


Contact: Bliss Sando

Celebrate Earth Day in Ringwood, NJ

RINGWOOD, NJ-In the heart of New Jersey’s scenic Highlands region, the Borough of Ringwood hosts two annual Earth Day events: The Earth Day Hike and Caring for Ringwood Day.

Ringwood's Earth Day Hike is on April 22 at 1 pm (with a rain date of Sunday, April 29 at 1 pm).  The Earth Day Hike is free. Those who wish to participate should arrive fifteen minutes early at the Community Presbyterian Church on Carletondale Road near Cupsaw Lake. The destination will be Governor’s Mountain, located in the southwest section of Ringwood State Park with a beautiful view of the countryside at its summit.  The trail is of moderate difficulty and the hike should take approximately 2 hours to complete.  It is recommended that everyone brings their own water bottle and wear hiking shoes.  This event is being sponsored by the Ringwood Environmental Commission and Ringwood Outdoors.   

On Saturday, April 28, the 27th Annual Caring for Ringwood Day will be held (with a rain date of Sunday, April 29).  This town tradition is a day where residents have a chance to clean up litter and debris on Ringwood’s roadsides, fields, and parks.  This idea was originated by the Ringwood Women’s Club, which also co-sponsors the event.

The Caring for Ringwood Day event begins at 9 am in the parking lot of the Ringwood Library (also a park-and-ride), where complimentary bagels and coffee will be provided and equipment distributed.  Groups will then be dispatched to their assigned cleanup locations until 11:30 am.  At that time, everyone will be invited back to the park-and-ride lot for a presentation by Amy Jolin (program director for City Green) about composting and gardening.  Following the presentation, a complimentary lunch of hot dogs and other snacks will be served.

Those who wish to participate are encouraged to pre-register in groups and can call Karen Garceau in the Recycling Department at (973) 475-7179 to be assigned a cleanup location. 

World Environment Day Coming Up June 5


Contact: Molly Rothberg

So What Are You Going to Do
for World Environment Day?

World Environment Day is an annual, international event that falls on the fifth day of June that involves anyone and everyone from anywhere.  The celebration promotes worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Other than Earth Day, World Environment Day is known for being the biggest, and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. It began in 1972 and has widely grown since. The United Nation Environment Program personalizes environmental issues while enabling people to realize not only their responsibility, but their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development. 

Through World Environment Day, people can come together to ensure a cleaner, brighter and greener outlook for themselves and future generations.

So, how do you take immediate action? We rely on anyone and everyone to make this happen. You have numerous options to participate in. Organize a neighborhood clean-up, get your community or yourself  to stop using plastic bags, plant a tree, walk to work, start a recycling drive, cut your shower time in half, and the list of activities doesn’t end!

Whatever activities you decide to participate in, let us know here: We will post your activities on our website to share and inspire others!

7th Annual Clean Up Millburn Event


Contact: Vic Benes

7th Annual CleanUpMillburn
 Begins April 15th

The Girl Scout Council of Millburn Township Inc. received its charter from the organization in 1930 and since then has made a lasting impression. Participation in the week long string of events that make up the annual CleanUpMillburn effort is among their contributions. The week runs this year from April 15 to April 22. Various locations are cleaned by volunteers of all different varieties. Coordinators supply gloves and garbage bags to all sites as long as you’ve scheduled to receive them.

The annual cleanup project was initially inspired by the Rahway River Association, which schedules and organizes cleanup projects throughout the year and over the years. Locations such as the railway stations, parking lots, parks, and Rahway River in the Millburn and Short Hill areas are all targeted. In Millburn on Essex St. an area exists near the Department of Public Works where wind often blows the garbage into the railway stations, parking lots, Rahway River, and parks. The Rahway River is an important location to many fish and the pollution heavily affects their reproduction and spawn, which are dependent on the river. 

The CleanUpMillburn effort is organized by the Millburn Environment Commission, chaired by Vic Benes. The effort is usually scheduled around Arbor Day, Earth Day, and the Taylor Park Green Fair.  The effort is to encourage the community to get involved with keeping their town and public areas clean and educate children on the importance of the environment.

Volunteers can be individuals, families, organized groups, businesses, companies, Girl Scout groups, Scout groups, and school groups. Companies can participate in alternate ways by advertising the effort or allowing employees time off to participate for a few hours. Many organizations get involved, and so far this year the Short Hills Garden Club, Downtown Millburn Development Alliance, and the Millburn-Short Hills Chamber of Commerce have promised their involvement. Often local conservation groups also partake in the event, such as the South Mountain Conservancy and the Rahway River Association.  In 2009, there were a total of 206 registered volunteers helping out during the week.

Getting the young community involved is key to the CleanUpMillburn initiative, according to Benes."The mission is education, so we concentrate on the younger kids," said Benes. "It's hard to change adults' habits. But if you can get kids into a repeated clean up event of some sort that is fun, it will stay with them."

This year on April 20 at 2:45 pm the tradition Taylor Park cleaning will take place, which is an event incorporated into the CleanUpMillburn effort. The Taylor park cleaning is left for the children who are willing to participate. In past years the Downtown Millburn Development Association chips in ice cream vouchers for all children who take a role.

The week long CleanUpMillburn effort is important to the community and hopes to build and grow in the future. All volunteers are expected to be ready to get dirty, wearing boots and long pants. It is advised to bring water and snacks to keep hydrated and energetic.

The Millburn Environment Commission (MEC) meets at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall on the first Monday of the month and welcomes active involvement from the community. To find out more about the MEC, visit the Millburn Web site, or e-mail:

-- Lauren Haag

“Silent Spring” Makes Noise in Environmental World

By Diana Stanczak

Imagine a world without natural beauty, a spring without the songs of birds floating through the air. Now imagine that this massacre of natural beauty was manmade. This is the premise of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Though Silent Spring was published in 1962, the issues discussed within its pages are still relevant today. In easy-to-follow language, Carson offers serious anecdotes about health issues happening all over the United States. Just within the first few chapters, Carson writes about a dog dying and a child becoming a unconscious due to being exposed to toxic pesticides. Dying animals and children are two subjects that no one wants to be exposed to, which is why Silent Spring is so effective in opening people’s eyes to a problem surrounding all of us.

Personally, as an environmental layperson, I found Silent Spring an informative read. It was scary to learn that these chemicals affect our day-to-day lives. I did some background research on the author, and found out that some people regarded her as a “hysterical woman” and did not take her opinion seriously. Knowing this information makes this book even more appealing, because Carson dared to reveal the truth even when some large chemical companies opposed her.

I would suggest this book to any student, environmental studies major or not. You will definitely learn something.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tennessee Gas Company’s Proposed Pipeline

By Bliss Sando

In the summer of 2008, New Jersey’s Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council (Highlands Council) approved the Highlands Regional Master Plan.  The purpose of this piece of legislature was to protect open space and watershed land in the elevated area called the Highlands in northern New Jersey from development.  The 860,000 acres that make up the New Jersey Highlands region are not only home to vital natural resources like drinking water, but also to some of the last remaining farmland in New Jersey, endangered species of animals and plants, historic structures, and miles of open space.

Unfortunately, since the passing of the Highlands Act, the formation of the Highlands Council and their approval of the Highlands Regional Master Plan, the momentum gained by these accomplishments has been countered by new elected officials, like Governor Chris Christie, who seem to have different plans for the land supposedly protected by these pieces of legislation.     

Mahwah, New Jersey is home to the Ramapo Reservation, a stretch of land nestled on and along the Ramapo Mountains.  Recently, the New Jersey Highlands Council passed Exemption 11 for the Tennessee Gas Company, allowing them to build a new natural gas pipeline that runs through the Highlands and through the Ramapo Reservation.  This project, called the ‘Northeast Upgrade,’ will affect approximately six acres of land within the Ramapo Reservation—land that is supposed to be protected under the Highlands Act.  Aside from being in the Highlands watershed region, this land is protected by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Green Acres Program.

So why isn’t it being protected?  Is the Highlands Council doing the job that it was created for, which is to enforce the protective/preservation measures of the Highlands Act?

Many citizens expressed their opposition to Exemption 11, which resulted in the Highlands Council postponing their decision yet ultimately allowing it anyway.  Citizens and environmental groups, like the New Jersey Sierra Club, are now expressing their opposition to the Highlands Council's action.  The Sierra Club has proposed a lawsuit against the Highlands Council for ‘misinterpreting’ Exemption 11, arguing that the Northeast Upgrade is not an upgrade or maintenance, which the exemption allows, but an entirely new pipeline.  It is true that the project will include several miles of new pipeline, but members of the Highlands Council call it an upgrade because of the fact that it connects to an existing pipeline. 

The passage of Exemption 11 by the Highlands Council, however, does not mean that Tennessee Gas will be allowed to build their pipeline.  The gas company must still acquire permits from the New Jersey DEP, and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) will make the ultimate decision, reported Scott Fallon of .

New Jersey Governor Christie and his administration have expressed support for the new pipeline since last year.  Citizens have spoken out loudly against the project and generated petitions, and environmental groups like the New Jersey Sierra Club have threatened legal action, but have not filed any lawsuits as of yet.  However, until the final permits have been granted, there is still time to protect the source of New Jersey’s most precious natural resources in the Highlands.

Dupont/Pompton Lakes Update

By Vanessa Camargo

In 1802, DuPont was established by Eluethere Irenee DuPont de Nemours, a French immigrant, who got a name for himself for being a big gunpowder producer. In the 19th century, DuPont’s Pompton Lakes Works was known for manufacturing explosives that would spark fires; the plant made blasting caps filled with mercury fulminate. During World War I, the United States had a huge demand for gunpowder that was manufactured by Pompton Lakes Works.

Employment at the company tremendously increased from 300 workers to more than 7,500. All employees helped produce blasting caps, detonating fuses, boosters, and hand and rifle grenades. This had a dramatic impact on the communities of DuPont. Pompton Lakes became known as a “company town.” Many residents turned their homes into rooming houses for the company workers. In the 1950’s, after World War II, additional manufacturing development and plant expansions continued for the next three decades.

These years of manufacturing explosives left Pompton Lakes extremely contaminated. There have been high rates of cancer in a Pompton Lakes neighborhood polluted by runoff from the plant site. Soil and ground water contamination was found as a result of DuPont Pompton Lakes Works. Things like volatile organic compounds tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene was found in homes due to vapor intrusion.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency delayed cleanup of Pompton Lake for a year. Cleanup was expected to start this spring but now won’t happen until 2013. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the anticipated dredging of 26 acres would not be enough to protect the wildlife from contamination. Residents also thought that cleaning up a small portion of the 200-acre lake would not solve a century of mercury contamination from DuPont’s factory.

There is a big effort to try and clean up the toxic contamination left behind by the company’s explosives factory.  Studies show that Acid Brook Delta is where most of the mercury has been collected. For nearly a century, DuPont has spread its contaminants into the Acid Brook. It is said to have run from its site through parts of the town and emptied into the Pompton Lake. There has been a cleanup for the Acid Brook but not the factory itself.

The EPA and DuPont expected to start the clean-up project in March. But EPA spokeswoman, Bonnie Bellow, said that the agency was postponing the work so that it could address a few concerns.

The Fish and Wildfire Service sent a letter to the EPA that stated more studies should be held to detect if other parts of the lake have mercury in it. They also said that the cleanup could possibly leave “residual contamination,” which “may result in injury to fish and wildlife.” Bellow replied by saying that the EPA would try to take that into account and that they can possibly change the lake clean-up.

Residents continue to ask if DuPont should even focus on dredging the lake, being that the plant site, which is the source of the toxic substances, will remain contaminated.

Pompton Lake Still Experiencing Effects of DuPont Plant

By Victoria Ahlers

Over the next two years, officials are hoping to launch a clean-up that will address what remains of the complex contamination from the DuPont munitions plant in Pompton Lakes. In the coming months, the EPA will roll out a series of measures to ensure that this gets done. Requests to add the site to the federal Superfund list have been brushed off for some time now; however, recent studies have charted a plume of contaminated groundwater that is releasing toxic vapors into homes between the plant and the lake.

The DuPont plant was in operation for nearly a century, closing in 1994. In that time, the 570-acre plant polluted its own grounds and adjacent waterways. The first signs of problems were in the 1980’s. At a January 5 hearing, held by the EPA, the agency showed no signs of dropping a DuPont plan to dredge mercury-laced sentiment from 25.8 acres of the 250-acre lake. The EPA promised renewed efforts this year to stop the plume, as well as an initiative to more thoroughly remove contaminated soil from the plant, which could begin in 2013.

The residents of Pompton Lakes are skeptical of these promises. The solvents in the plume have been linked to cancers, which has become a sore point in the town, since it seems to have a “cluster” of the disease. Over the past two years, an ongoing study by the state Department of Health and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has found unusually high hospitalization rates among local residents. with some types of cancers.

Whether or not the issue eventually reaches the federal Superfund list, the EPA is still reassuring residents that more efforts will be done to continue clean-up efforts in the area.

Irene’s Damage Lingers on Long after Storm

By Victoria Ahlers

The damage by Hurricane Irene to the Ramapo River and the areas surrounding it is still lingering long after the storm has passed. The storm, which hit last August, caused significant flooding, and powerful moving water, leaving behind a path of debris that if not removed will only cause future problems.

Among the problems caused by Irene was severe damage to nearby homes and businesses. There was a dam break near Arden in Orange County, sending a significant amount of water downstream, raising the already high water level of the Ramapo River. In its path, it brought down hundreds of trees, leaving them in the curves of the river bank, in perfect position to block the waterway’s future flow.

Cleanup efforts are currently being led by the Rockland County Drainage Agency along the Hillburn area of the Ramapo River. The agency is in charge of maintaining 80 miles of county-designated streams. Dozens of trees were knocked down and left within feet of a sports and recreation center. Hillburn was not the only area along the river to be affected by the storm. Agency director, Vincent Altieri, says that there are 48 sites on county-designated streams around the Rockland area that sustained damage. The county is seeking reimbursement for the cleanups. According to Altieri, the Ramapo River damages qualified for FEMA aid.

The cleanup costs for all 48 sites will be a total of $77,857. Seventy-five percent of that will be reimbursed by FEMA, and 12.5 percent will get reimbursed by the state, leaving the county to foot the remaining 12.5 percent, said Altieri.Within the last few weeks, agency workers have nearly completed walking the 80 miles of stream, monitoring their status, and determining whether or not additional cleanup will be needed, he added.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Plan for New Jersey

By Richard Fetzer

Imagine this, if you will: a green forest with streams, plants and an array of animal life.  This place has paths and trails for visitors to follow in order to truly enjoy this natural beauty, and escape from stuffy offices and overcrowded highways.  The sound of the flowing water, scent of natural wildflowers and fluttering of butterflies calms the stressed suburban dweller.  It is the escape from the artificial word to a natural one that, for some, seems unimaginable. 

Now imagine this beautiful oasis being scarred by bulldozers digging a big ditch for the flowing of natural gas through big pipes.  This is not a made up place or a made up scenario.  This is what may happen to the Ramapo Reservation at the hands of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline. 

The proposed new line by Tennessee Gas Pipeline means big change for North Jersey residents.  The plan is to upgrade an existing line by adding five 30-inch pipeline loops and modifying four existing compression stations, according to  This project will cost $400 million and will cover 7.7 miles and will run from West Milford to the Ramapo Reservation in Mahwah.

According to a article on January 25, Jeff Tittel, state director of the Sierra Club, said that the proposed compensation for the destruction of preserved lands is “unsatisfactory.” His words may stand true for residents of Mahwah, as well as North Jersey in general.

“The Ramapo Reservation is unique and irreplaceable,” he said.  “This park contains the most environmentally sensitive areas in Bergan County and we must not lose these lands to unnecessary polluting fossil fuel projects.  This is like putting a pipeline through our Yellowstone or our Yosemite.”

Something needs to be done to prevent this pipeline from destroying an irreplaceable natural landmark in our community.  Everyone who feels that scarring the Ramapo Reservation with yet another environmental pollutant is wrong needs to stand up and use their voice to say “No!”  The destruction of our dwindling natural escapes is not okay and should not be permitted to go on.

So, please, find the opportunity to go to a town hall meeting and use your voice to help save the Ramapo Reservation.  So often we do not value how precious something is until it is gone.

Deforestation and the Need for Change

By Luan Madani

There are many key environmental issues that are currently of concern. An often overlooked issue is deforestation. Deforestation happens more often than people think, and while there are steps taken to ensure that deforestation is slowed, it is still a major problem. There are many reasons why deforestation takes place and many of the reasons are for human necessity.

One of the main reasons deforestation takes place is using the wood for timber. Timber is widely used heating fuel, but also for housing, paper and pencils. Heating is very important as many families use wood burning stoves to heat their homes as an alternative to oil heat. Charcoal is also derived from deforestation which is also sold as fuel. It is very important for the economy to have these things, therefore, deforestation has become an integral part in human life.

The land that is cleared as a result of deforestation is often used as pasture for livestock, plantations and settlements. While deforestation is turned into a positive with using the wood as fuel and the land for pasture, deforestation leads to a bigger issue as it destroys wildlife habitats. There are many species that rely on wooded lands and rain forests as their habitats. As one can assume, this in turn destroys species of wildlife and leads to extinction. Without reforestation, deforestation has led to soil erosion, biodiversity loss and aridity, which is an area that is severely lacking in water.

Deforestation is also a contributor to global warming, as it enhances the greenhouse effect. Out of all of the contributors to greenhouse gases, 20% of it is from deforestation. Trees and plants remove carbon in the atmosphere during photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen as part of the process. Burning wood releases much of the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Also, carbon stores that are in the soil are released during deforestation. As one can see, mass deforestation contributes to the massive problem of global warming.

Another natural occurrence that is affected is the water cycle. Groundwater is extracted by trees through their roots and subsequently released into the atmosphere. Obviously, when trees are removed, there is no catalyst to evaporate the water away which results in a much drier climate. Deforestation reduces atmospheric moisture, and also reduces soil cohesion which results in erosion, flooding and dangerous landslides.

As one can see, this is a very large issue that reaches people on a global scale. We in America are not the only ones who rely on wood so heavily for daily necessities such as heating and cooking. In developing countries, approximately three billion people rely on wood for these same things. The few issues that were pointed out above are a part of a larger problem and are a part of many other issues that deforestation causes. If nothing is done in the near future to decrease deforestation and increase reforestation, we as humans are going to pay the price.

Toxic Legacy Reveals Truth

By Luan Madani

“Toxic Legacy” is an important issue today. It is important to find out about events such as these because when something serious happens and it begins to affect people, something needs to be done.

“Toxic Legacy” was a very interesting and revealing report that was done exceptionally well. Showing how the Ford Motor Company blatantly dumped toxic waste in an area that is inhabited by people to the re-discovery of how Ford did not do a proper clean up of the waste to the lawsuit, “Toxic Legacy” is a piece that should be shown all over the nation.

Even if someone does not know too much about the environment, or does not care, it is important for them to look at this piece because it shows how the environment is affected by everyone, including multi-million dollar corporations that should set the standard for doing the right thing. Unfortunately, that does not happen all of the time and usually it is big corporations that produce the biggest toxic waste and do not dispose of it properly.

The best thing about "Toxic Legacy," aside from it being revealing and showing every detail about the case, it hits close to home. Growing up in New Jersey and living here throughout my childhood, I was not too far from Ringwood. The fact that a town was and still is so heavily affected by this begs the question, “did this happen in my area?” It raises speculation whether or not the readers live in an area that has been contaminated. This is also a reason why this report is important.

“Toxic Legacy” raises awareness and it teaches people about the dangers of pollution. While raising awareness, people will begin to question the environment in which they live in. There are individuals out there who will do the research and find out whether or not their surrounding area has been affected by pollution and whether or not where they live is contaminated. If people begin to find out that their area is contaminated, that is more places that are known to be polluted and the necessary clean up can take place.

This report can be used as a teaching tool for people that are not really up to speed on daily issues regarding the environment and what negligence can do to a community and the earth. The more people who see this, the more people that are informed and that information leads to taking the necessary precautions to make sure that things like this never happen again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mahwah Gas Line Project

 By Thomas Babcock

The gas line project proposed to be built from Asylum, PA to Mahwah, NJ has a feeling of inevitability to me. This is one of those things where the powers-at-be, I think, will have their way no matter what the general public has to say.

There obviously are serious concerns with the mega-million project, including: damage to the pristine land-- including tearing through the Ramapo Reservation--and also the problems that come with drilling for natural gas with fracking.

The reason I say this feels like an inevitable project is because Tennessee Gas claims they are at capacity with their current gas line. This means they have little choice if they want to expand their business, and when it comes to business or the public’s concern, I think history has made it clear that business wins out more often than not.

What I dislike the most about this project is that it would go through the Ramapo Reservation. It’s called a reservation for a reason. We’re supposed to reserve and cherish the beautiful land that we are quickly gutting for selfish and irresponsible reasons. I understand where the public outcry is coming from. If this were my backyard or hometown, I would feel the same way.

What I would propose is some creativity and ingenuity in finding other ways. Anytime people can resort to not tearing apart land is a solution I can back.

DuPont’s Lasting Toxins

By Thomas Babcock

Much like Ford Motor Co. claimed Ringwood, NJ was clean from their toxins and paint sludge, DuPont claimed 15 years ago that an area they polluted in Pompton Lakes, NJ was also cleaned up. But, according to a report by, as of February 2012 the site along a stream through the town still shows evidence of elevated mercury and lead levels. The US Environmental Protection Agency also reported traces of the solvent PCE, which is directly related to causing cancer.

According to the news story, residents are worried about the EPA’s “eye ball” test, in which they say it’s unlikely the pollution was carried into Pompton Lake.Instead of immediately performing further tests, they merely looked around and deemed the area safe for residents. How trustworthy could they possibly be if they also once said the stream running through town from DuPont's factory site was clean? This is a serious matter where people’s lives are at risk

It’s apparent that changes are never made until serious consequences occur. I feel as if this has the potential to be one of those cases where it’ll take a dozen families to have sudden and bizarre illnesses before anyone acts seriously.

While the article does say the eye ball test was “preliminary” and more tests will be done, I ask at what cost? A decade and a half has passed; who knows how long dangerous PCE solvents have been present in this area.

Toxic Legacy Part II?

By Thomas Babcock

Similar to "Toxic Legacy," this is a story detailing how human industries can have a negative influence on surrounding wildlife. In this case, there appears to be a strong connection between a mulch and compost site with the die-off of several hundred fish. The town of Tuxedo paid a $25,000 fine to get the municipal facility to comply with state regulations, according to a report on WNYC radio.

This is a disappointing story for obvious reasons, but it is also unfortunate because this takes place in a patch of land that was reserved by the state of New York in the 1990s. It was protected in attempt to keep the Ramapo River clean because it is a major water source for New York and New Jersey. This story provides a strong example of just how delicate our ecosystem is. Literally, all it takes is one facility, one barrel of toxins, or even one person to mess up the environment for many organisms. In this case, a polluted water supply could also mean health risks for the human population. Unfortunately, environmental damage is very easy to cause and painfully long to restore.

While "Toxic Legacy" was a blatant case of negligence, this case is still debatable on whether the proper precautions were taken or not. I’ll hold out hope that this facility will work to change its ways, if they are in fact the culprits to the fish die-off. If they are, it will be much harder to hide the sudden flush of dying fish, unlike the Ramapough Indians, who took many years to develop their plague of sicknesses.

Carson Warning still Heard through Silent Spring

By Richard Fetzer

“No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world.  The people had done it themselves.”
Above is a chilling conclusion that Rachel Carson uses to instantly capture her reader’s attention while giving a description of the death of a small town in the first chapter of her book Silent Spring.  The chapter entitled “A Fable for Tomorrow” spoke to me, deeply.  It describes the transformation of this hypothetical town from thriving as a part of a lush and striving natural ecosystem, to a stark and depressed wasteland.  Again this is a hypothetical town, but all the she describes has occurred.

As Carson wrote, “This town does not actually exist, but it might easily have a thousand counterparts in America or elsewhere in the world.  I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes I describe.  Yet every one of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communities have already suffered a substantial number of them.  A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know.”

Carson’s work was published in the 1960’s, but its lessons stand true today.  The chemicals that we use in our environment eventually find their way into our own bodies.  It is a terrifying fact, but it needs to be understood in order for people to will a great change that is long needed in the United States and everywhere in the world.

What really speaks to me about Carson’s work, besides the flawless logic backed with scientific facts, is her ability to take complicated facts and figures, and make them understandable to people of every background.  I am in no way a science or math person.  Sometimes I find myself having difficultly with even the simplest mathematical facts, but still I understood the magnitude of what Carson was saying.

Carlson covers all aspects of the pesticide issue in this way.  She starts with the basics and history of the pesticides being used.  She then goes into every way that the Earth is affected including human and animal life, the soil, air and water. 

Overall, Carlson gives a complete and compelling explanation of pesticides and the chemicals that they are made up of.  She explains the negative effects that these toxins have on the environment, as well as human and animal life.  It is a book that everyone should pick up and experience.   

Rereading Silent Spring

By Bliss Sando

Written by Rachel Carlson and published in 1962, Silent Spring is often credited with exposing the mass Western audience to the importance of environmental issues—and rightly so.  The work itself is a must-read for those interested in the birth of the environmental movement.  I first read this book in 2007 when I spent a year at the University of Vermont majoring in Natural Resources.  Re-reading it five years later, I learned things that I probably missed the first time around. 

The courage of the author to criticize such large institutions as the chemical companies producing harmful pesticides such as DDT is inspiring, and the book stands as an encouraging testimony to the power of grassroots environmental campaigns.  The purely informative and non-aggressive nature of Carlson’s writing increases the book’s effectiveness, and allows the reader to focus on the facts presented without being distracted by the political/economic aspects of the issues. 

Silent Spring is written in such a way that is easy to understand and both interesting and shocking at the same time.  The very nature of the subject of the dangers of pesticides that were being so widely used for so long was shocking in 1962.  Carlson explained not only the dangers of these chemicals to the environment (plants, animals, and entire ecosystems), but to human beings as well.  She concludes the book by offering safer, cheaper, and effective alternative methods of pest control. 

On the whole, the book offers a complete picture of the problem and solution, causing audiences to ask the question, “Why has this happened in the first place?”  Clearly, the chemical companies and their economic interests must share some blame. 

Silent Spring is also a fine example of the power that environmental writing can have.  Writing can give a person the means of peacefully expressing and distributing facts and opinions on controversial subjects.  This book and the public’s reaction to it proves that no matter how much opposition a piece of environmental writing evokes, there will always be an audience willing to listen—as long as the piece is factual and convincing.  Silent Spring and Carlson faced opposition from the media and the chemical companies whose products she was speaking out against. However, despite the widespread opposition to the book, its contents reached a mass audience and sparked change.  DDT, one of the chemical pesticides criticized in the book, was eventually banned in the United States. 

Overall, I learned more from reading this book (even the second time around) than any other short work of nonfiction.  I believe that it is something that everyone should read, regardless of their interests.  Not only does the book itself teach the reader, but the history that surrounds its release in the 1960’s is worth researching as an example of the power that environmental writing can hold. 

Considering Silent Spring

By Molly Rothberg

The 1962 book, Silent Spring is what launched the modern environmental movement. Author Rachel Carson examines the damaging and negative effects that pesticides have on the environment, specifically on birds and other animals. What Carson points out in the beginning of her book is the enjoyment of listening to the sound of birds in a community, as humans and elements of the natural world work together towards the growth of the spring season. The reader comes to realize that chemical poisons silent these pleasant sounds and spring becomes silent. In this first chapter, we understand how Carson gets the title of her book.

Deeper into the book, Carson explains how the chemical poisons affect the nature of the growing world. Insecticides are poisons that affect animals and birds over a period of time leading potentially to death. Carson discusses water pollution and how insecticides in soil cause the chemicals to combine with other chemicals, leading to pollution of streams and lakes.

Chapter 7 titled, “Needless Havoc,” discusses the effects of large spraying campaigns. These spraying operations have a record of killing non-targeted birds and animals. In the Midwest, this was a huge issue, when it led to the killing of a large number of wildlife.Birds are killed enmasse because they eat both insects and worms, so when a spray operation occurs birds are affected tremendously. The DDT users did not stop this action and Carson focuses on the fight against DDT's widespread use . Additionally, the river life also became affected because salmon had their food killed by the damaging parasites.

Insecticides contaminate everyone and chemical poisons have an incredible effect on the human body.  The ecology of the human body gets upset when exposed repeatedly to poisons. Towards the closing of her book, Carson illustrates the human body and how it becomes impacted by chemical poison. We need an alternative solution for insect control. There are campaigns in which these other solutions have been effective, inexpensive and safer for the environment. 

After reading Silent Spring, I had a different outlook on pesticides and pollution. Frankly, it made me think twice about how it not only impacts nature, but also the human body. Carson’s book is an inspiring example of being motivated by love of nature and rising to its defense.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

17th Annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference

April 12, 2012

Geoff Welch
(845) 712-5220

Ramapo River Watershed Conference at Ramapo College

Mahwah, NJ – The 17th annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference will be held Friday, April 27th, at Ramapo College of New Jersey from 10 am – 4:30 pm in the Trustees Pavilion, 505 Ramapo Valley Road, also known as Route 202. The event, presented by the Ramapo River Committee and the Institute for Environmental Studies at Ramapo College, will feature a variety of speakers on environmental topics pertaining to the Ramapo Valley in New York and New Jersey.

The event is free but registration is requested at

This year’s conference will include presentations on watershed events since the last conference; the Warwick Brook Fish Kill and the Tuxedo Mulch Site; the Hudson Estuary Program and the Ramapo River; Blandina Bayard’s Indian Trading Post on the Ramapo River (est. 1700); the Asian Tiger Mosquito in Rockland County; Weather Oil Spills and Response; the Recovery of the Ramapo Valley Well Field, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Project; the People, Places and Cultural Traditions of the Ramapough Mountain Indians; the DuPont Acid Brook Cleanup, and the Impacts of the Proposed International Crossroads Development.

There will be coffee and bagels at 9:30 am before the event starts.

10:00 - Opening Remarks: Ramapo College President Peter Mercer, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, SSHS Dean Sam Rosenberg

10:15 - What a Year! (A quick review of watershed events since the last conference)

10:30 – Doc Bayne, Friends of Sterling Forest: The Warwick Brook Fish Kill and the Tuxedo Mulch Site

11:00 – Scott Cuppet, NYDEC: The Hudson River Estuary Program and the Ramapo River

11:30 – Nancy L. Gibbs, Sheffield Archaeological Consultants: Considering Blandina Bayard’s Indian Trading Post on the Ramapo River Established in 1700

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm - LUNCH

1:15 – Brian Hunderfund, Senior Environmental Health Specialist, Rockland County Health Department: The Asian Tiger Mosquito in Rockland County

1:30 – John K. O’Mara P.E., NYDEC: Weather Oil Spills and Response

2:00 - Chuck Stead, Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator / Adjunct Professor, Ramapo College: Recovery of the Ramapo Valley Well Field

2:30 – Erica VanAuken and Kate Millsaps, N.J Sierra Club; Chief Dwaine Perry, Ramapough Lenape Nation: Tennessee Gas Pipeline Project

3:00 – Edward J. Lenik, Sheffield Archaeological Consultants: Ramapough Mountain Indians: People, Places, and Cultural Traditions

3:30 – E. Durring Merril, Environmental Officer Pompton Lakes: 1) The DuPont Acid Brook Cleanup (2) Flooding Issues

4:00 – Ramapo College Environmental Assessment Class Panel: Impacts of the Proposed International Crossroads Development

4:30 - Wine and Cheese Reception

--Joseph Pianese

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's Next After Silent Spring?

By Amanda Daley

Rachel Carson brought up many interesting facts in her book Silent Spring. The part that I found most interesting is how dangerous DDT is to not only the insects but to people. She reported many cases of people becoming diseased later on in life after they have had contact with DDT.

It makes me wonder why the federal government took so long to act against DDT with all these people becoming deathly ill. It’s not very comforting how long it takes the government to act on something. It’s almost as if the government doesn’t really exist and nothing would have happened if this book didn’t come out.

But even though DDT was extremely dangerous, I feel like what isn’t harmful to our health nowadays? Almost everything causes cancer or some other sort of disease, it seems. We can’t escape the many dangers there are in the world.

I don’t know what kind of pesticides are used today on crops, but I assume that they are not as dangerous as they were back in the 50s and 60s…atleast I hope that they are safer than they were.

I hope that in the future they can find another way to ward off insects from the crops without the use of chemicals. Any sort of chemical isn’t good for humans or animals. Hopefully, scientists of the future will be able to come up with a chemical-free and non-harmful way of keeping our crops safe from insects that can destroy our food supply.

Cancer in Pompton Lakes

By Richard Fetzer

“You have cancer.”  These are possibly the three most terrifying words that anyone can hear.  Those three words have the power to change or, in the worst cases, end a life.  For residents of Pompton Lakes, N.J. those three words are heard more then any of the surrounding towns in North Jersey.

According to a report by the state Department of Health and Senior Services, there were 169 hospitalizations of Pompton Lakes women for tumorous cancers, compared with the 122 that would have been expected based on statewide figures. Pompton Lakes men were hospitalized 23 percent more often than expected for tumorous cancers, with 118 incidents compared to an expected 95.6.
DuPont Co. may not be responsible for higher cancer rates in Pompton Lakes.  According to, the report released by the Department of Health and Senior Services found “significantly elevated” rates of cancer in both men and women.  The report, which was released in December of 2009, concludes that the results of research shows inconsistencies that suggest that environmental factors have not caused to the rise in cancer in Pompton Lakes residents.

According to the report, “Inconsistency between results for males and females for these cancers does not support a causal association with these potential environmental exposures.”

The investigation also explains that the cause of the heightened rate of cancer in Pompton Lakes residents cannot be clearly explained, but it does give some insight. According to the report, “Other plausible explanations for the elevated SIR include other immeasurable risk factors in the community, or chance alone.”
The report explains that these other “immeasurable risk factors” may include tobacco consumption or occupational exposures.

Some in the North Jersey area are not convinced by the report’s findings, such as Annie Echevarria, a Ramapo College student who had family in Pompton Lakes.

 “I think that DuPont must have something to do with cancer in Pompton Lakes,” says Echevarria.  “How else can you explain the numbers?  I mean, serious?”

According to, DuPont began manufacturing explosives in Pompton Lakes in 1902.  Manufacturing was vamped up during World War I, employment increasing from 300 to more than 7,500, and again during World War II. DuPont’s manufacturing in Pompton Lakes continued until April of 1994.  While it was in operation, DuPont produced blasting caps, military detonation fuses, and rocket igniters.

Since the 1980’s DuPont has been doing a cleanup of industrial contamination that migrated from the plant site into residential neighborhoods.  The contamination includes lead, mercury and toxic chemicals in solvents that have been found to have seeped into homes from a groundwater plume.

“There is no way with DuPont’s history, that it is not responsible for the health issues in Pompton Lakes,” says Echevarria.  “I just hope that the community can recover.”


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fate of an Eco-City

The New York Times

To the editor:

I recently read Michael Tortorello’s article entitled “An Early Eco-City Faces the Future” and I was instantly enthralled by the story.  I was completely unaware that a place such as Arcosanti even existed, nonetheless, in the middle of an Arizona desert. 

Some might ask, “why is this story so interesting?"  Because, it is a futuristic concept, that was undertaken four decades ago, and now sits, unmoving and with an uncertain future.  It really is a vision of sustainable living, though it is still uncompleted.  A giant leap was taken to create a ecofriendly city, but was followed with not even the tiniest step.

Obviously, Tortorello took a lot of interest in Paul Soleri’s creation and crafted the story beautifully.  Arcosanti should be on the minds of every individual who expresses an interest in the environment.  It is both motivating and shameful.  Motivating, because such strides were taken to create such a place, but shameful that it has seen little progress after that great stride.

This story needs to be heard, and I hope that some day an article will be written about how successful Arcosanti has become and that their goal of having 5,000 residents and a completed city has been met, though it is difficult to imagine such events at this present time.

Still, though the project is looking like it will be difficult to raise the funds required to see some substantial push in the right direction, it is very inspiring how dedicated the people involved are—from the 92-year-old Paolo Soleri to the people living on the compound, such as Youngsoo Kim. 

Also, the article, in lesser detail, discusses the buildings' construction and how the concrete absorbs the heat during the day and releases it at night.  The green houses seem like an interesting idea, if they can actually be used to heat the building. 

If the eco-friendly city is going to be successful, there needs to be desirable living conditions.  The reason why people do not choose to live like that is because people, especially Americans, love the common comforts that are afforded us in unsustainable living conditions.  In order for people to embrace the sustainable way of life, those common comforts must be replicated using sustainable practices. 

I hope to hear more about Arcosanti and similar projects.

Richard Fetzer

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Move to Cut NJ Corporate Red Tape Triggers Environmental Red Alert

By Lauren Haag

“When [Governor] Christie took the oath of office two years ago, he promised 'a new era of accountability and transparency' and said that 'today, change has arrived.' It’s time for all New Jersey residents to let the governor and other elected officials know that jeopardizing the health and well-being of our families, communities and small businesses is not what we had in mind,” John Pajak, president of New Jersey Work Environment Council, stated recently in the Star-Ledger.

A new waiver rule is going through Trenton and proposed to come into effect in August. The waiver eliminates “red tape” in industry, from companies, local governments, and individual businesses. The DEP, Department of Environmental Protection is the first expected agency to adopt the waiver policy. Many Jersey environmentalists and environmental organizations are outraged.

“Developers who damage the environment take their profits and move on. But the costs of cleaning water or solving flooding problems created by sprawl and runoff fall on those left behind once construction is done,” says John O'Boyle from the Star-Ledger.

The waiver is part of executive order no. 2 issued the day Christie took office, which allows certain “red tape” restrictions to be avoided by corporations under certain conditions by various waiver bills. Concerns exist on the impact this will have on already established environmental policies and the advantages certain businesses may have in paying to receive the waiver rule because of its case by case basis.

DEP commissioner Bob Martin emphasizes that the rule will give the DEP flexibility to work with corporations for the benefit of all in specific circumstances which will be overseen and transparent.

Applications by corporations for the waiver will be displayed publicly on the DEP website for transparency. The entire application process will also be monitored by Bob Martin to ensure fair treatment of all businesses.

There are four criteria necessary for a business to receive the waiver. There must be a public emergency, rules conflict between legislature and the DEP, the waiver generates net environmental benefit, or a rule imposes undue hardship on the business or corporation. Several environmental agencies have proclaimed these criteria very vague, which then leaves possibilities of exemptions boundless.

Organizations claim that the waiver policy will jeopardize safeguards put into place to prevent chemical spills, explosions, and other workplace exposures to toxic chemicals.

The Hackensack River Keeper environmental advocacy group states that it should not be okay to pollute the river in need of economic benefit.“They would have New Jerseyans believe that despite the ability to grant exemptions for more than a hundred permit programs, the DEP will be so stringent and meticulous in using that power, and developers will be such good and honest stewards of the land despite greater freedoms, that environmental standards will not be lowered in any way.”

The DEP staff is said to already have a lot on their hands aside from rummaging through waiver applications. There are concerns on what affect the new waiver will have on the DEP and its employers.

Various organizations are willing to politically, legislatively, and legally fight off the DEP waiver. It is said that the waiver is one of the most toxic bills passing through Trenton today. “The waiver bill fits the theme for Christie's administration: make economic development and jobs the top priorities, and eliminate red tape and other obstacles to doing business,” said Pajak.

For more information:

“No Child Left Inside”: Ramapo Planting Seeds of Environmental Education

By Lauren Haag

Ramapo College and other organizations come together annually to put on a program of environmental education for interested students from second grade through high school. On June 9 the 12th annual Ramapo River Day at the Ramapo Reservation will be held.

Ramapo River Day is sponsored by the Ramapo College faculty, Trout Unlimited, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  It is an opportunity for students to observe and interact with nature, form an appreciation for and build a better understanding of its condition and our place within nature.

"The need for environmental education has never been greater," the Baltimore Sun noted in an editorial on Oct 24, 2011. "Every day, the country seems to be facing new and difficult choices touching on environmental issues, ranging from how to meet energy needs to how to deal with toxic materials that might pollute our air, water or soil. The next generation will only face more difficult decisions as the Earth's population grows (it is predicted to reach 7 billion this month) but its natural resources do not.”

A hot topic in education is the new “No Child Left Inside” Act in Maryland. The act involves an environmental literacy component to the core curriculum which must be meant by the educators in each school district. The criteria necessary to meet the new requirement, however, is up to the school district itself. With school funding being cut in various ways, the addition of this Act allows school to request more money to enact the new policy as well as other education endeavors. State congressmen in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Rhode Island are also pushing the Act. From an economic standpoint, politicians are also interested in the new curriculum standard because it is a form of “green” jobs, which can open up new employment opportunities as well.

The “No Child Left Inside” Act will be moving toward the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, there are concerns about teaching certain ideas in the classroom. “Even raising the possibility that schoolchildren might be taught about climate change and greenhouse gases raises the hackles of some who would apparently prefer students be left in the dark on this vital subject,” says the Baltimore Sun.

Ramapo College’s Ramapo River Day and the Ramapo Meadowlands Environment Center in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, are two areas the college is involved in aimed at educating students about environmental issues and importance. The Meadowlands Environment Center brings in groups of students from kindergarten to high school and exposes them to different environmentally friendly and informative activities for a low cost to the school systems they’re coming from.

If the “No Child Left Inside” Act sprouts into New Jersey, Ramapo College has already been at work on its roots.

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