Thursday, March 28, 2013

Beneficial Steps to Help on Global Warming

Dear Editor,

Global warming is a common concern in today’s society. Some argue that humans have no role in controlling the environment, but the reality is we do. Since the 1940’s over 200 chemicals have been created by man for killing insects, weeds, and other organisms. The problem is that pesticides that have been used in our soil to preserve our crops not only contaminate our soil, but our bodies as well. Depending on the level of exposure, pesticides can cause fatigue, skin irritations, nausea, vomiting, and have other effects on humans who ingest a certain level.

To help monitor and keep global warming balanced, organic soil can be used as a replacement for pesticides. Composting food and making it into soil has the same effects as using these chemicals—and it can cut down on garbage truck traffic to landfills. Another way to help reduce the risk of global warming is to turn off all electrical appliances when they are not in use, which would reduce the amount of electricity generated by power plants.

Creating awareness is crucial in trying to regulate the problem of global warming. By making efforts to promote a clean, fresh, and healthy environment we can surely reduce these issues.

BMW had our environment in mind when creating a vehicle that reduced emissions by coming up with a way to have the engine shut off at every red light. With more ideas like these we can absolutely live in a better environment, and reduce the chances of global warming.

Alexa Rivera
Ramapo College of New Jersey

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Agent Orange and Dioxin FAQs

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign poster

By Jaimie Moscarello

Agent Orange and Dioxin

WHAT IS IT?       
Dioxin is perhaps the most toxic chemicals to man. It is the umbrella name for chemical compound containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and chlorine. Dioxin is formed inevitably, naturally, synthetically and is a consequence of industrial processes.

Dioxin is formed inevitably, naturally and synthetically. It is a consequence of industrial processes, like bleaching paper, using chlorine, and producing chemical herbicides. It is strongly connected with paper mills that use chlorine in their bleaching process.

Waste-burning incinerators and backyard burn-barrels produce the most major source of dioxin in the environment.

Dioxin is stored in the fatty tissue. Animals exposed to high levels of dioxin store the chemical compound in their fatty tissue; people who eat their meat are exposed to dioxin. Mothers who have eaten the exposed meats who are nursing their babies expose their children to dioxin.

Dioxin is a carcinogen. It causes cancer! If that isn’t scary enough, the chemical compound causes liver and kidney damage, reproductive and developmental problems. Dioxin harms your immune system and meddles with hormones.

Birth defects, miscarriages, endometriosis, decreased fertility, lower sperm counts, lower testosterone, diabetes, learning disabilities, lung problems, skin disorders like chloracne, lowered immune systems are all linked to dioxin exposure.

Dioxin was studied in 1943 by a plant biologist, Arthur Galston, who found that too much of the compound hurt plants. He was worried about what the effects of the chemicals were to people and the environment.

70 male inmates at Holmesburg Prison in Northeast Philadelphia were part of an experiment in the 1960’s to determine the risks of dioxin. The inmates’ health became poor, as expected. The names of the inmates were not released and the public was not aware of the experiment until 1980.

The use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War took place between 1961 and 1971. In those ten years, the US military sprayed about 20,000,000 gallons of chemical herbicides. That’s 20 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange and other chemicals to clear rural and forestland so the enemy couldn’t have food and cover.

The mission, Operation Ranch Hand, used aircraft to spray the herbicides. The campaign destroyed 5 million acres of land and crops.

The Vietnam Red Cross estimates at least 3 million people, including 150,000 children suffer from dioxin exposure. Women in Southern Vietnam had higher rates of miscarriages and stillbirths; livestock were affected in the same way.

Children affected have health problems, like cleft palates, mental disabilities, and extra fingers and toes.

Dioxin was found in Vietnamese women and in the blood of soldiers who served in Vietnam. It’s also still contaminating soil and sediment.

Birth defects in generations of the Vietnam War or Korean War veterans are associated with dioxin.

In 1980, New Jersey created the NJ Agent Orange Commission, the first state commission to study the effects of dioxin. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman disbanded the commission in 1996.

Peace Villages exist in Vietnam, to provide victims of Agent Orange medical and psychological help. The Vietnamese government and Vietnam Red Cross give money to centers caring for dioxin victims.

There are many organizations that are doing something about dioxin.

Make Agent Orange History is a site where you can learn more about the most dangerous chemical compound known to man and volunteer your time and money. 

Learn more:

DuPont, EPA Spar Over Pompton Lake Contamination

By Lisa Quaglino

The aftermath of the DuPont Manufacturing plant’s operations is still being felt by residents of Pompton Lakes, even though the facility was closed in 1994. Chemicals were used in the plant during the process of making explosives, and they have contaminated the ground and water in the surrounding areas. Although the company had been operating for 92 years, a groundwater and pollution monitoring system had not been put in place until the 90’s.

Most of the contaminants were VOC’s, volatile organic compounds, that were seeping into the soil and groundwater, affecting a residential neighborhood just south of the factory.  VOC’s can leak into homes in the form of vapor, causing harm to residents and making basements unusable. Measures were taken by DuPont and the EPA to test for and eliminate the vapors and protect the homes in the community. A water treatment system has already been installed at the former plant site and the groundwater will continue to be monitored.

Another worrisome aspect of the DuPont pollution is its effects on Pompton Lake and other water systems, like the well-named Acid Brook. Acid Brook, which empties into Pompton Lake, flowed directly through the DuPont site, picking up lead, mercury and other contaminants along the way. Once this was discovered, clean up was done in and around Acid Brook.

Efforts of cleanup are still being seen today. DuPont continues to take steps in order to reverse the damage done during its operation. They are currently working to ensure that homes in the area are safe to live in, and are about to begin an extensive clean up of lead and mercury contamination in Pompton Lake that was deposited from Acid Brook.

The EPA has begun working on creating permits and guidelines for DuPont’s long term cleanup of the area. Once all permits are in place, a thorough cleanup can begin, most likely in 2014. So far, the EPA has requested DuPont to remove 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil in over 40 acres of the lake sediment and continue to test the area after the cleanup. They are also required to monitor the lake continuously and clean up any new found hot spots. However, DuPont is skeptical about the extensiveness of the requested cleanup, and had only expected to focus on a smaller area. Currently, they are appealing the EPA cleanup plan.

Despite this, town officials continue to assure the community that what needs to be cleaned will be done in a timely manner, and that their goal remains to get the clean up done as soon as possible.

With the combined effort of the EPA and DuPont, the cleanup will hopefully be successful and be an example for other areas involving pollution cleanup. Residents remain hopeful that their community will soon be contaminant free and Acid Brook will no longer live up to its name.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Agent Orange and Uncle George

By Ashley Intveld

I was in my eighth grade chemistry class when my name was announced from the classroom loudspeaker. We had been discussing the process of electron placement in the various orbits of an element, and as soon as my name was called to report to the front office ready to go home, my mind went blank. I knew what going home during third period meant, especially considering the past weeks leading up to this day, and I knew it didn't mean anything good. 

Book bag slung over my left shoulder, I descended the stairs of my middle school to find my mom with tears staining her shirt. She wiped them quickly to ensure that I wouldn't notice as she gave me a solemn hug.

"Uncle George isn't doing well. This may be our last chance to say goodbye. Grab your things," she said to me through forced sentences. My mom had a knack for failing to keep her composure, despite her dire efforts. I couldn't blame her. Her brother had been her best friend long before I came into the picture. And she was driving to the hospital in Hackensack to say goodbye to him for the last time.

My Uncle George was a large man. His hands tripled mine and he towered well over my own head, which isn't really any justification for his height. His belly was round, often filled with beer and Oreos; a late-night snack that never promised life-everlasting. It did, however, keep him satisfied. He had white hair, odd for his age, and brilliant blue eyes. They would tear every time he laughed. He was that kind of uncle; the guy who would rub his knuckles playfully on our scalps as he giggled and wriggled to be set free. He was a good man, and it wasn't his time to go.

Not now, not while my mom was struggling to keep her mother cognizant of the year and her father from wetting himself. She needed Uncle George, like any little sister needs her big brother.

I sat among my cousins and siblings as we painstakingly waited for any word from the doctors. Uncle George had been sick for only about two months before our final visit. He was perfectly healthy until one day he coughed and in his napkin he found blood splatter. He went to the doctor that day, and Uncle George was never the same again. His cough was guttural and made those around him cringe when they heard it. He was rarely awake and when he was, his speech was hindered by the interruption of his wheezing breaths.

The cancer he developed was so rare and rapidly spreading, the doctors held little help for Uncle George's remission. They couldn't confirm it, but my mom had the answer the doctors were to afraid to confirm. It was because of his constant exposure to Agent Orange during his stint in Vietnam. 

Upon his return in the 60s, Uncle George was a completely different person. He was grouchy and cold, and awoke often in the night screaming from the horrendous images that tainted his dreams. Little did he know that he didn't just bring home frightening images in his head, but something fatal that lurked deep within his lungs.

Uncle George passed away later that week. The doctors simply stated his death to be from cancer, but where that rare cancer came from is what raises eyebrows in my family to this day. Agent Orange, a deforestation technique introduced to the war effort in the 1960s, benefitted American soldiers in eliminating vegetation to easily spot approaching intruders. However, the invisible intruders eventually got the better of them many years down the line. I consider Uncle George to be sufficient proof.

Tracking a Toxic Legacy of Hidden Dump Sites

By Alexa Rivera

“On the other side of the hill a spring-fed stream once ran clear and fresh. For generations, it quenched the thirst of the mountain’s residents, the Ramapoughs. Now the water is bright orange and laced with cancer causing benzene.”

This quote is from “Toxic Legacy,” a 2005 investigative series by the "Bergen Record."After months of examination, a group of reporters from The Record produced a story called "Toxic Legacy." The story portrayed the immense damage to environmentally sensitive places caused by Ford Motors Inc.The damage had already spread into many places in North Jersey and New York State before Ford closed its Mahwah assembly plant in 1980. 

A toxic amount of waste was dumped into forests and other areas of Ringwood, as well as surrounding towns in North Jersey, Rockland County and other areas in a wide region. The pollution produced by Ford Motors caused lead and volatile organic chemical contamination in the heart of the Ramapo River’s most important watershed. 

“There’s an entire ecosystem in Torne Valley that has been impacted upon, not just by Ford,” said Professor Chuck Stead, Natural Resource Educator of Cornell Cooperative Extension. Torne Valley is a short distance upstream from Mahwah, where Torne Brook flows into the Ramapo River in Hillburn, NY. 

Stead has been an adjunct professor at Ramapo since 1998 and is currently working on his doctorate degree in Environmental Studies at Antioch University in New Hampshire. Stead has been conducting soil contamination research with his students at Ramapo College. 

 “For over 10 years we’ve been looking at the lead paint contamination of the groundwater and the soil in various Brownfields that Ford Motor Company committed,” said Stead. 

Stead witnessed the contamination as a child. He tracked the areas that were affected and logged it. “My students and I went back to those places and based on that log, we had a starting point for finding paint material and we found hundreds of tons of lead paint in the watershed,” he said. 

Initially, Stead and his students were on a hunt to find the areas where the contamination resided. The idea was to show his students how to recognize disturbed terrain, how to find areas where the paint is, how to probe it and most importantly how to connect it to Ford Motors products. 

Along with Antioch University, Stead developed a way to date the time the paint was dumped by identifying the age of the trees that grew on top of the paint. “My students and I covered a whole area in Torne Valley. We identified 16 sites and identified the times. What was important about that was we did this in 2007 and the trees dated back 37 years or slightly older,” said Stead. 

It is known that Ford contributed to the massive amount of contamination in the forest and watersheds in North Jersey. “But because the trees were of that range, it identified that the paint had to have been dumped when the property was owned by an independent [company] that was in league with Ford,”  he said. 

In an effort to improve the affected areas, Stead started another project with his students. BOCES of Rockland County, Ramapo College and Stead have put together a job/skills program that coincides with restoration, design and construction of a 19th century Saltbox house in Torne Valley that has been turned into an environmental education center. 

“The building is now up and the outside is completed. We are just working on the inside,” said Stead. Besides soil contamination research, Stead and his students will use the site for environmental education classes and do an in-depth study of the flora and fauna because they’ve been contaminated as well. 

Not only is this contamination affecting the wildlife, but the residents who live in these areas are also being affected. “The Ramapough Indians' health has been permanently damaged, not just in Ringwood, but in Mahwah, Hillburn and other places as well,” said Stead. 

The paint has a catalog of exotic compounds that contribute to residents' illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and asthma, to name a few. 

“Anyone exposed to these exotic compounds are put in harm’s way and this exposure carries through from generation to generation,” said Stead. “Ford is big and we’ll be researching Ford’s contamination for a long time."

After years of research and examination of the paint sludge and lead contamination, Ford has made efforts to clean up the mess they made. The Rockland County Times reports that Ford Motor Company has begun waste cleanup in Torne Valley along the Ramapo River.

Global Warming Already Affecting New Jersey

Dear editor:

Since the beginning talk of climate change and global warming, we have been threatened with many consequences due to our large, wasteful society. The various ‘bad things’ range from frequent super storms, flooding, loss of forests, a rise in the global temperature, the list goes on. From what I can tell as a person living in Northern New Jersey, we are beginning to feel these forewarned events, starting with the rise in temperature.
New Jersey is a very diverse part of the North American continent. We have a very small portion, but we have many different bioregions within this small portion. There are mountains in the north, river systems provide natural boundaries on the East and West, the Southern part is flatter with marshes, and the East coast has the Atlantic Ocean. Besides the four different regions, we have all four seasons of the year.
Generally speaking, spring and fall are pretty temperate with temperatures ranging from 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer is cooler in May and June but heats up fast in July and August. Winter always seems to drag slowly due to the possibility of a snowstorm from November through March.
Now the question is, “What does this have to do with global warming and climate change?” Well, it has everything to do with it. As the carbon emission releasing of our society keeps going up, the more Green House gasses get thrown into the atmosphere. The Green House Effect essentially lets heat in but does not let it leave the Earth’s atmosphere, producing a warmer Earth. This is not a bad thing at all but the more we keep dumping millions of tons of carbon emissions into the air, the more of an insulator it becomes, keeping the planet warmer and warmer.
You may be thinking, “Yay! No more cold winter!” You are right in a sense, but this warming effect not only makes the winter warmer, but the summer months warmer also. Just think about last summer’s hottest day at 104 degrees. Now, take that 104 and add 2 more degrees. That 104-106 swing does a lot to the body in making you sweat. Now take those same 2 degrees and add it to the outdoor environment around a Southern New Jersey swamp let’s say. The air gets warmer and drier, which makes the plants soak up more water, and the air to evaporate moisture quicker. Give warm summer months 2 more degrees and at the end of those months there is no swamp. It is just a bone dry basin due to the Green House Effect and Global Warming.
The bottom line is that we are starting to see a change in our environment. It may not be extreme (YET) like a 3 foot snowstorm in July, but we are seeing a difference and more changes are going to come, bigger and more menacing. Let’s look at what emissions we are emitting and think about a way to possibly cut down on them and help restore the planet back to the way it was.

Ben Reuter

Crowding the Ramapo River to Death

By Ben Reuter 

 I never knew how important the Ramapo River Valley really was or how polluted and messed with it really is. I always understood the river was a place for animals and plants to live around to gather their nutrients from, but I had no idea the river was a major water source for people in the region.
Geoff Welch’s presentation on the Ramapo River watershed unveiled to me that fact and now my idea of the Ramapo River Valley is completely changed. Yes it is still a major environment for animals and plants, but it is also a vital water source for thousands of people in the New Jersey area. Wells along the river valley are filled by the constant water flowing, as well as some water being held by dams for water consumption.
If this river is so important to the people in this area then why is it achieving higher and higher levels of pollution through the years? Is it just plain ignorance? Or is it a villainous action? I lean more towards the ignorance side, although there are specific instances where people are directly to blame for blatant pollution , I feel like people just need the knowledge of where their trash, water run-off, and other pollutants go when they get washed away during a large rainstorm.
Most of the pollution in the river is in direct relation to the amount of developed communities that are creeping closer and closer to the banks of the river. Yes building homes is great, get more people in the town, bring in more tax revenue, etc. However, what are these new developments doing to the surrounding ecosystems and wildlife?
Think of where your house is. What do you think was there before your home was built? My house is on the side of a mountain and I know that my development tore away a major defense to erosion. Because my development’s position on the mountain, we took away trees that would hold dirt from being washed down the mountain side. Now we have mud slides and major foundation problems all along the neighborhood due to yards being washed out with no reinforcement.
A similar event is taking place in the Ramapo River Valley—not with mud slides, but with the deterioration of water ways and flood plains. The closer to the river the developments get, the more flood plains and waterways are going to get paved over.
Once these streets and homes are built on a flood plain or wetlands, the more prone to water damage these areas are, as well as how more prone the wildlife in the area is to decline dramatically. The wildlife will also be affected by developments built so close because of the constant stream of pollution that we bring with us everywhere we go. Our oils and dirt from the streets wash off and into clean waterways dirtying the area, our pesticides and fertilizers for our lawns run off our property into the clean waterways poisoning the wildlife.
The Ramapo River Valley can give us so much. So much wildlife, beauty, and magic. Yet, we persist on taking more and more of nature’s area for our own and when we are done we want more. Think about that cycle. Eventually there will be no more. Then what? 

How awful will you feel when one day you read, “No More River Due to Housing”?

DuPont Extending a Helping Hand

By Bill Pivetz 

DuPont has been a part of Pompton Lakes for over a century.  They have been manufacturing explosives since 1902 when the Delaware-based company acquired Laflin & Rand. They made huge quantities of gunpowder when the United States entered World War I. “Employment was increased from 300 to a wartime high workforce of more than 7,500 employees who were involved in producing blasting caps, detonating fuses, boosters, primer and an unknown quantity of hand and rifle grenades,” according to a local history. 

Because of this, Pompton Lakes became a “company town” and houses were built for workers. The explosives plant was also an integral part of World War II. Hundreds of workers were transported by bus loads from Jersey City, Elizabeth, Paterson and New York. But with the economic shift of the 1980s, the factory downsized and shrunk its workforce. Manufacturing at Pompton Lakes ceased in 1994. 

Fast forward to the present day and DuPont is still a vital part of Pompton Lakes, but for a different reason. Investigators found that dangerous vapors were leaking out from ground water flowing from the factory site and into nearby homes. DuPont is taking responsibility for the damage, something unseen by other companies, and, according to their website, “will remain a partner in this community until our investigation and remediation efforts are completed.” The amount of time that will take is unknown, but at least they won’t be leaving anytime soon. 

DuPont wasted little time as they have removed 200,000 tons of contaminated soil and sediment. Since June 2008, the company has offered vapor-removal systems to residents living within the groundwater plume area. In a website update posted on March 4, 2013, DuPont reported a total of 298 mitigation systems have been installed by either DuPont or a third-party contractor through February 15. It will be a while before all the homes in the area have the vapors removed, and who knows if all of it can be removed, but it’s good to know that DuPont is stepping up and doing the right thing by cleaning up their mistakes. 

It will take a long time for Pompton Lakes to be back to normal. However, with the financial backing DuPont has provided, normalcy will return to Pompton Lakes eventually. They have collected air samples from about 390 properties as of February 1 with more being collected soon. DuPont is also reaching out to those individuals who haven’t responded to their offer for a mitigation system. This proves that DuPont is serious about the clean up and willing to make the extra effort to ensure everyone’s safety. 

 This isn’t something a big company usually does when they’re cleaning up.

DuPont Cleanup: Thirty Years and Still Not Finished

By Jaimie Moscarello

POMPTON LAKES – The DuPont plant closed its doors on April 1, 1994. It’s been almost 30 years and the cleanup of the 576 acres and off-site still isn’t over.

E.I. DuPont established DuPont, one of the world’s oldest industrial enterprises, in 1802 close to Wilmington, Delaware. 100 years later, the company opened a plant in Pompton Lakes. It became the national center for manufacturing explosives.

The company thrived in both World Wars. In 1917, employment at the plant went from 300 workers to 7,500, and more than 3,000 during WWII. There was a housing boom in the area for the employees working at the plant. During both World Wars, large quantities of gunpowder, as well as other weapons of war, were produced at the plant.

In the 92 years that the plant was active, lead, mercury and large amounts of chemicals to clean machines were used. The chemicals, including explosive powders and chlorinated solvents, were not properly disposed of. The site polluted the groundwater and vapors seeped into the ground and into people’s homes.  After finding out their water, soil and air are contaminated, the citizens of Pompton Lakes, as well as the state and federal government, demanded that DuPont clean up their mess.

In 1998, DuPont created a groundwater system to pump and treat the water. The system filters 8 million gallons of contaminated groundwater every month. The groundwater is contaminated with ten chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

A decade later, in 2008, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agency, tested soil under homes in the town for chemicals that migrated to the land’s surface. The results were that vapors from two VOCs were found in many homes.

The Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes (CCPL) formed in 2008. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to provide environmental education, data and scientific assistance for the health and welfare of the public.

Despite the residents' protests, the site is not declared a Superfund site.

More recently, the EPA ordered DuPont to remove 100,000 cubic yards of contamination from the lake. In a 2011 study, it was found that higher concentrations of contamination downstream from its origin. The EPA expanded the cleanup by 14 more acres. Because the contamination is migrating, fish and wildlife in the water may be dangerous to eat.

DuPont’s plan for further clean up is due this month and the lake cleanup will mostly likely begin in 2014. The company has to acquire 11 permits from the state and town. DuPont still owns the plant site and is responsible for further clean up there. The company pays the town $500,000 annually in local taxes.

For more information, visit 

Why I Like Scientific American

Dear Marlette DiChristina,

This is why I read your magazine. I just got finished reading an article by Stephen C. Riser and M. Susan Lozier entitled “Rethinking the Gulf Coast” in your February 2013 edition of Scientific American. I really enjoy getting the inside scoop on scientific news, getting informed on not only the future, but debunking current misconceptions and previously held beliefs on global issues. 

This article states that the previously held notion that Gulf Stream’s warm tropical waters keep European winters mild has been disproven by three studies, all of which do not agree with one another. One shows a large direction of prevailing winds, and another focuses on heat lost from the ocean. Ice caps melting would not shut down the Gulf Stream, another misconception pointed out by this article. I really enjoy the insight, and providing me with facts that not many people get to read about. 

The variety in your magazine is also truly stunning, and I am able to acquire so much information from so many different fields of science. What you are doing with your magazine is great, and I am glad I am a subscriber.

 Steven Aliano

Flood Debris Removed from Ramapo River

By Steven Aliano

A $10,000 project by Uniscape Landscaping has been used to remove trees, branches, and other large objects from the Ramapo River, according to an article on The removal project, along Route 202 south of West Ramapo Ave would help flooding condition in West Mahwah, where the massive amounts of debris left over from Hurricane Irene created a large dam. The removal allows the water in the river to flow better.

The budgeted plan had been scheduled for last September from a Mahwah Flood Conference meeting held in January of 2012. The mayor of Mahwah, Bill Laforet, was quoted as saying that they are looking at longer-term, more costly plans to control flooding conditions on the Ramapo River, but are doing smaller projects such as this now. The article also stated that similar projects have been used in other areas along the Ramapo River in Mahwah, such as by Catherine Avenue, shortly after the hurricane. 

The mayor also stated that this landscaping project was combined with other volunteer programs, such as those the Beautification Committee, Eagle Scouts, the county scoping of Masonicus Brook and the dredging of Winter’s Pond, as well as other individual projects.

I don’t live in Mahwah, but I’m glad that some action has been made to improve the Ramapo River. I would have liked to have seen a follow up article on how Hurricane Sandy has possibly messed up or halted this project, adding more work for this landscaping company and the volunteer groups. That would be a very critical and interesting article, as I would assume the storm would have done some more damage to these efforts.

The Mahwah Patch article featured a couple of photos of the clean-up effort, in which it looked like things have been going along smoothly, at least for the time of when the article was written. However, these photos also showed not a big amount of machinery or people, which could be a case of the low budget that the article stated being used for this short term process. The photos didn’t show much of the debris, so I couldn’t tell just how bad the damage was. I would have liked more photos in this regard, so the reader can get a grasp as to what is being cleaned up and how severe the damage was.

Ramapo River Update

By Nick Bower

The Ramapo River has been in the local news lately, partly for the flooding it causes to towns such as Pequannock, Pompton Lakes, and Wayne, as well as two dams on the river. The Pompton Dam and Pequannock Dam, built in the 1920’s, are the reason for the excessive flooding in parts of the three townships, many residents of the area believe.

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP) estimated that the extraction of the pair of dams, located on the convergence of the Ramapo and Pequannock rivers, would cost $1.25 million. On further examination, the agency concluded that closing the dams would not have that much of an effect on flooding from a major flood.

State environmental officials had approved the idea two years ago, but cancelled the plan to close the dams in February.

“We are certainly disappointed that the DEP is not moving forward with removal of the feeder dams,” Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano told “We believe the removal of the feeder dams would certainly benefit the Riverview community of our township during a flooding event. Our residents have suffered enough.”

The Ramapo River is roughly 30 miles long. It begins in Orange County in the southern part of New York and flows into northern New Jersey where it widens into Pompton Lake, then meets with the Pequannock River to form the Pompton River. It is a popular destination for fly fishing and trout.

In Mawah, New Jersey, the town council in January unveiled their annual Master Plan for 2013 which calls for the addition of more open space. The town officials hope to establish greenbelts throughout the community and one of the plans calls for pedestrian trails to be constructed along the Ramapo River.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ramapo River: Getting Back to Normal One Day at a Time

By Bill Pivetz

These early months of the winter season have been very stressful on the Ramapo River. With limited precipitation, the river struggled to stay at normal water levels. These numbers continued into the month of February. For most of the month, the river didn’t eclipse five feet in depth, even with the snowstorm.

However, that changed with the rainstorm that hovered over Mahwah earlier in the week. The river’s depth rose from 4.75 ft on Tuesday night to 6.8 ft early Thursday morning in Mahwah, according to the National Weather Service.

Despite the current rise, they predict that the level will be back at the five-foot mark by the weekend. This is an important benchmark as the river is a major source of drinking water for Mahwah, Oakland, Pompton Lakes and other towns in North Jersey.

In the Town of Ramapo just upstream from Mahwah, the river was as low as 3.2 feet early in the week. It rose up to a little over five feet Thursday morning. The change in levels is a concern for parts of southern New York. The Ramapo River Watershed, the smallest watershed in New York State, provides clean water for Rockland and south Orange County. If the water levels become too low, then the counties would have to tap into other watersheds in order to provide their citizens with the amount of water they need. 

Not only does climate change and global warming affect the amount of water able to be used by the homes in the area, but it affects the fishing in the area as well.

According to, more than 20,000 trout were released by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife to streams and ponds in 17 New Jersey counties. “Locally, on Oct. 12, the Wanaque River was stocked with 330 trout, and the Ramapo River was stocked with 890,” the news report stated. 

Trout Stocking Affected by Warmer Weather

For the second consecutive year, the fall trout stocking was pushed back to the second week of October. This is mostly due to weather conditions that resulted in high water temperatures and low stream flows. “Moving the start of fall stocking to the second week of October takes advantage of cooler temperatures, which benefit trout and minimizes the potential for last minute stocking schedule changes that impact anglers,” the report continued.

The ever-changing climate affects the Ramapo River in many different ways. From the water usage in homes to recreational use, a lot of lives can be impacted if the water levels aren’t at the right height. Although we can’t control when it rains or snows, we can control how much pollution we allow into the atmosphere which affects the rain, snow and temperature.

The Ramapo River is one of many rivers that provide water to homes, businesses, schools and many other places. A slight change in temperature or depth can affect a lot of different things and can put a lot of restrictions on water usage. The Ramapo River is a very sensitive body of water. It’s needs to be taken care of in order for it to continue doing what it does.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

EPA Calls for Expanded Pompton Lake Clean-up

By Brittany Ryan

 The US Environmental Protection Agency wants an expanded dredging plan to remove 100,000 cubic yards of DuPont’s mercury, lead, and copper contamination from the Pompton Lake, according to The expansion is in response to a study findng that contaminated sediment has graduated downstream past the Pompton Dam in unknown quantities.

Chief of EPA Correction Action and Special Projects section, Phillip D. Flax, labeled the study a key influence on the expansion, which would increase clean-up from 26 to 40 acres, including several hot spots of contamination. The lake-depth study was completed in 2011 and revealed that higher concentrations were found much further down the river from its original location in the Acid Brook area. Public comments on the movement of sediment and feedback from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the danger to aquatic life also served as influences on the updated plan.

Mayor Katie Cole said she is pleased with the expansion, with expectations for the work plan to be issued in March. This plan will detail the truck routes used to transport the sediment and perfumes that will be used to mask the smell of the removed material. The dredging operation will take place along Acid Brook’s Delta near the Pompton Lakes middle school. While hotspots are identified, the equipment will remain at this operation. Thereafter, the EPA will review the details and then hold a public information session to discuss the plan. Cole anticipates the clean-up will not begin until 2014, as DuPont still needs to acquire eleven state and local permits.

While the expansion is good news, residents are frustrated that the plan is only coming about now. Some complain that they have been suggesting the possibility of shifting sediment for a while, and have demanded downstream mercury testing for over a year. Residents feel both DuPont and the EPA are exceptionally slow to respond and are taking far too long to act on what should have been common sense. Executive Director of the Passaic River Coalition, Ella Filippone, questions whether the EPA’s plan will clearly outline DuPont’s responsibility to remove the sediment, possibly requiring them to seek additional permits, further delaying the cleanup.

Despite the concerns, the EPA’s Flax has full faith in the updated plan and believes it will remove a majority of the mercury from the Ramapo River-Pompton Lake system. Flax insists the EPA permit will sufficiently outline DuPont’s requirements to perform clean-up and any testing. Mayor Cole said she trusts the plan as well.

For more information:

DuPont Appeals EPA Cleanup Plan for Pompton Lake

By Nick Bower

The long-awaited DuPont cleanup of contaminated sediment in Pompton Lake will have to be put on hold for a just a little bit longer.

On Jan. 15, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a community presentation for their final plan for the DuPont cleanup. The EPA’s plan calls for 100 thousand cubic yards of soil and contaminated sediments to be cleared from 40 acres in Pompton Lake, as well as DuPont being required to test for contamination outside of the designated area and to monitor the lake long-term.

However, DuPont had a Feb. 4 deadline to appeal the plan, and on February 1 they announced that they plan to do just that. According to DuPont, they should only be responsible for cleaning up 68 thousand cubic yards of soil and contaminated sediments from 26 acres, and that there is no outlines for the long-term monitoring of Pompton Lake.

"Our decision to pursue an appeal does not lessen our commitment to the community, nor our desire to begin work on the remedy in the lake as quickly as possible,” Bob Nelson, DuPont spokesperson, told “Our goal would be to start the project in 2014, provided we can obtain the necessary permits. While the appeal is being reviewed, DuPont will meet with local and state officials to pursue approval of existing permit applications.”   

Two weeks later, news broke that would appear to be good news for both the town of Pompton Lakes and DuPont. Federal officials verified that no uranium was used at the DuPont Pompton Lakes site during their 92 years of manufacturing munitions.

In 1974, the U.S Atomic Energy Commission established the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program that was intended to list all companies that used uranium, and DuPont was never listed. The EPA is certain that because those companies were tracked very closely, that if they had used uranium, they would be on the list.

Although uranium was detected during tests during the initial cleanup, the EPA believes that the uranium is part of naturally-occurring radioactivity from the Earth’s crust. However, DuPont used tunnels to test their explosives, and those tunnels have yet to be tested, and some citizens believe that those tunnels could be the source of the uranium.

In an unrelated development, DuPont was named by Fortune magazine on Feb. 28 as one of the world’s top 50 most admired companies. Coming in at number 41, DuPont has made the list for the fourth consecutive year, despite having numerous environmental, tax evasion and lobbying controversies on their resume.

The EPA has 45 days to review and respond to DuPont’s appeal as of Feb.4, so more updates are expected to develop sometime in mid to late March.

Helping the Ramapo River

By Ashley Intveld

We can all use a helping hand every now and then, and though you will never hear it, one river is begging for it. 

The Ramapo River, measuring 115 miles, has been a heavy topic of discussion over the years for its pollutant content. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 22 percent of the streams in the Ramapo River Watershed tested poorly, and 24 percent tested poorly in the neighboring lakes, while 34 percent of the streams and 42 percent of the lakes remain untested. To receive an evaluation of “poor,” the source “does not support designated activities and uses,”  DEC stated.

The high pollution content is due, in part, to years of illegal dumping of toxic waste in the surrounding land, erosion of that land, and flooding conditions. The DEC notes, “Water quality in the Ramapo River Watershed is affected by the extensive urbanization and suburban/ commercial development of the area.” Storm water drainage collects harmful pollutants and carries them to the nearby rivers and streams. Because the land had been victimized by the environmental negligence of the Ford plant in the 1980s and other sources, erosion of the land has also drained harmful pollutants into the water.

The Ramapo River made headlines once more in 2011 after Hurricane Irene left devastation in her stead. With widespread flooding in the Mahwah area, the storm water runoff carried harmful bacteria and chemicals into the nearby water systems. Along with these pollutants were branches, trees, bushes, and housing debris that littered and disturbed the water’s natural flow. 

According to the Oakland Journal, local Eagle Scout volunteers headed down to the river to give it the helping hand it so desperately needed. Patrick Watters, a Ramsey resident and Eagle Scout, proposed a plan to clean up the Ramapo River after being influenced by his brother’s similar endeavors. Just six years prior, Watters’s brother helped remove tires and other large debris from the river’s watershed. Patrick found his opportunity to continue with his brother’s example after Irene wreaked havoc on the river and the surrounding homes.
Schuyler McCaff, a Newton, NJ resident, reflected on his own experience as an Eagle Scout looking to improve the environment. “We’ve been working on various projects over the years to make the environment a little bit better than it was before.” Schuyler discussed a project involving the construction of bat-houses that served as shelters for bats that were falling victim to White-Nose Syndrome that he worked on about a year ago. “We all got together and learned about what happens to the bats and this seemed like a small step that we could take to make it a little bit better.” 

Schuyler’s involvement in Eagle Scouts has given him an expansive outlook on the impact of urbanization on local watershed. “Sometimes when the other scouts and I are cleaning up a campground or state park, we’ll find old tires and scraps of metal that we can’t even identify. The water is murky in some spots with that rainbow tint to it that we know doesn’t happen naturally. Being an Eagle Scout helps me give back to the environment that people have abused for so long.”
The Ramapo River faces new challenges each day. The construction of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline poses  threats to not just the natural habitat of aquatic animals and land animals alike, but for the well-being and health of all local communities. The question remains: when the Ramapo River needs our help, will we hear its cry?

Delaware River: Wild, Scenic and Fouled

By Katie Attinello

The Delaware River, named a “Wild and Scenic River” by President Johnson in the 1960s, is the longest free-flowing river on the East Coast—and the fifth most polluted river in the United States. That startling fact is a sad reality for those living along the river’s route, which stretches for 330 miles through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

In the last decade, the Delaware has become a source of environmental focus for many river towns and NJ locals, especially. Residents of Hunterdon and Warren Counties in New Jersey experienced severe flooding (which led to sewage, gas, and other runoff pollution) three separate times within a two-year period from 2004 to 2006. Many in those areas feared that rainfall from the more recent hurricanes Irene and Sandy would cause the same problem. Fortunately, those storms caused less river-related water damage than the previous rainstorms.

Flood contamination, however, may pale in comparison to other sources of the Delaware’s  pollution: in 2005, a damaged containment area allowed upwards of 60 million gallons of fly ash from a power plant in Northampton County, Pennsylvania to spill into the river. For months afterward, foam from the spill could be spotted along the same stretch of the river affected by the ’04 to ’06 floods. Later, in 2010, an estimated 6.7 million pounds of toxins were released into the tidal portion of the river from the DuPont Chambers Works in Salem County, exceeding the 5.3 million pounds of waste dumping permitted by law.

The latest environmental hazard facing the Delaware is a product of its location. As an article from reports: “About one-third of the Delaware River Basin, in New York and Pennsylvania, lies above Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits,” which make it a tempting fracking ground for companies looking to drill new wells. The drilling has become an enormous debate between the state, environmental advocacy groups, residents, and gas companies, due to the high risk of water contamination from the drilling process, and the amount of water removal required for the creation of each well. In addition, many locals are simply heartbroken over the loss of the Delaware’s beautiful scenery, which fracking can obliterate.

Yet, there are reports of progress. A article last fall noted that many indicators of health and revival in the river and its bay near Philadelphia are looking up. They also noted a significant loss of forests and wetlands within the last two decades, which has not aided in the Delaware’s recovery. Those groups dedicated to the river’s well being will continue to monitor the both the improvement markers and potential pollutants affecting the river in the coming years, with efforts to restore and protect the Delaware ultimately at the forefront of their mission.

For more information:

Blame Game for Ramapo River Floods

By Brittany Ryan
For years the Ramapo River and surrounding communities have experienced severe flooding. Eroding banks creating steep drops and swallowed homes are evidence of raising water levels and matters have only gotten worse over time. As community members cry out for government action to address the never-ending issue, controversy emerges. In seeking for a solution, arguments over the cause of increasing floods remain a major conflict between state reports, legislators and local residents.

The Pompton Lake Dam was constructed in 1921 to ease the vigorous flow of the River. The project was designed to reduce the severity of an anticipated 40-year-flood. But since its development the area already experienced a 50-year-flood in April 1984. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE)  increased the Dam’s height, as a method to further control high water levels. The project included a two-foot raise, which has proven to be counteractive. During high water conditions the dam is submerged and causes major back flow into the Pompton Lake. In 2007, the ACOE introduced another plan to address the flooding conditions. This project involved installing floodgates at the Pompton Lake Dam and a one mile expansion of dredging upstream in Oakland. Two 18-foot-high by 35-foot-long steel floodgates were installed to regulate water releases by monitoring lake levels and opening the gates accordingly. ACOE proposed that these measures will provide protection to roughly 300 homes in the case of a 40-year-flood.

But the projects are not proving their effectiveness to the surrounding community. The Passaic River Advisory Commission reports that the dam actually raises the water level six inches under normal conditions. Aside from that, the debris caught up behind the dam worsens the problem. In fact, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) claimed that one of the main causes of flooding in the community stems from water back-up behind the Pompton Dam, causing frequent flooding in developed areas. Moreover, over ten deaths have been reported along the river due to the rapid flow of water. As for the floodgates, residents describe water flow at higher velocities with levels rising faster than usual.

However, a report completed by a New York technology firm, AECOM, has revealed that increased rain fall has led peak stream flow to double its average. The DEP has used this information, along with computer models and statistics, to produce a final report settling the issue. The conclusion is that intensified and more frequent rain storms are the leading causes of the flooding as opposed to the dam and the floodgates. Frustration lingers amongst locals who are fed up with reports contradicting what they bear witness to. Families who have spent their lives in the area experiencing excessive flooding attribute changing patterns to the installation of the floodgates.

Others argue development is the cause – perhaps an area residents need to concentrate a bit more on. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming different parties, understanding the geography might uncover the truth. The area is a natural floodplain with Route 23 expansions, park and ride facilities, Route 287, hundreds of homes and more commercial development to complicate natural processes. Imposing major development projects on a floodplain and expecting impeccable flood control seems illogical. Surely local government, including community members, should consider Low Impact Development plans and biological remedies before tampering with a series of band-aid construction projects.

Climate Change Denier Has Facts Wrong

To the editor, The Record:

After reading Gregory Rummo’s opinion essay, “Obama, climate, the poor and God,” I found several of his points to sit uncomfortably. Despite a roughly 97 percent consensus in the scientific community on anthropogenic climate change, the voices of a few skeptics and pseudo-scientists are magnified to create an illusion that instills doubt into this matter.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has produced assessments based on cumulative research gathered worldwide that reveal overwhelming evidence of negative impacts due to a warming climate. 

To cite three Rummo claims that are nonexistent: wild fires, drought, and storm severity--all are confirmed in their Assessment Reports. Since 1980 the average areas burned in U.S. have doubled their average cover from 1920-1980. This is based on a warming climate, which results in longer summers that dries fuels and promotes ignition and faster spread. Warmth has also led to early snowmelt, longer growing seasons, and drought. Specifically, Alaskan and south western forests have experienced a decline in growth, and the Corn and Wheat Belt are producing lower yields due to an increase in drought stress. Lastly, it is indisputable that tropical storms feed off warm surface water temperatures. Scientists have found that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes have increased since 1970, a trend closely following that of a warming ocean.

Furthermore, I find Rummo’s argument that carbon dioxide reduction is an attack on the welfare of the poor to be the most disturbing. Anthropogenic climate change poses major threats to global welfare, with those most vulnerable often being those with few resources. In the face of sea-level rise, low-lying island nations are particularly at risk of mass displacement with poorly developed infrastructure and limited resources to mitigate the impacts. In fact, coastal regions around the globe rely on marine resources to sustain their livelihoods, and ocean acidification, sea-level rise, biodiversity loss and coastal erosion severely threaten their well-being. 

Carbon dioxide is vital to maintain the Earth’s atmospheric stasis, but an unprecedented excess in combination with a decline in the capacity of natural carbon sinks has lead to degradation to this planet – of which God, I would argue, has clearly requested our stewardship.

It is imperative to shift our way of thinking. Capital extends far beyond economics; it encompasses the natural resources that humans would perish without. Improving human activity in a way that helps curb our rising levels of carbon dioxide is the only way to save our natural capital from depletion. Destroying the quality of life is the worst possible attack on humanity – much worse than increased gas prices.

Brittany Ryan
Mahwah, NJ

The Beauty of Our Ramapo Valley

By Adriana Cappelli 

Before Geoff Welch’s presentation about the Ramapo River in our Environmental Writing class, I was unaware of all the beauty that surrounds the Ramapo Valley. I was also ignorant to the fact that our biggest water supply is in great danger due to men hungry for money and power.

 I’ve been living in Rockland County for the past four years. Previous to that, I lived in Rochelle Park in Bergen County. Before we moved to Pomona, every Sunday my husband and I used to go for road trips to upstate New York because the flora and fauna there are unique. I love nature so much and I always want to be around it. I remember on one of those road trips I saw a deer for the first time in my life.

 It is such a shame that we aren’t able to take care of all the precious gifts that God gave us. In the beginning of history, men were a lot more conscious about nature because they needed it in order to live; however, we still need it too. There were beautiful lands with beautiful rivers in the whole world that served as a home to the first inhabitants. However, with the new era men have opted for not caring or caring very little about nature.

I believe that the world used to be a lot nicer and safer than what it is now. I understand that it is human nature to do anything to survive and it’s been like that throughout history. But, now we don’t care about each other any more and even less about nature. The hunger for money and power is going to be the destruction of many beautiful things, including nature, if we don’t became conscious about how important it is for us in order to LIVE!!!

Ramapo River: From Floods to Droughts

By Lisa Quaglino
In the past few years, attention has been brought to the Ramapo River due to flooding along its banks in New York and New Jersey. The flooding damaged homes, closed bridges and roads, and wrecked railroad tracks. The most severe flooding occurred in 2011 during Hurricane Irene, and more flooding took place in October 2012 due to Super Storm Sandy.

The reason flooding has caused so much damage has mostly to do with the fact that the towns bordering the river banks have developed so much land so close to the river. When roads and houses are built in close proximity, flooding will without a doubt cause damage to the homes, and make the roads dangerous to use or even impassible. Another issue with building roads so close to the river is erosion. The constant use of roads, such as 202 which borders the banks of the Ramapo River, leads to erosion, which in turn slowly adjusts the banks closer to the road. Eventually, construction will need to be done in order to make the road usable and safe for drivers who will find themselves dealing with flood issues more often than before. More work needs to be done to make sure that the erosion is stopped, and even reversed if possible, to prevent further damage.

Flooding is not the only issue that surrounds the river—just the opposite, droughts, are as possible as flooding. There have been talks about pumping water out of the river and into the Wanaque Reservoir, which could worsen drought conditions in other areas along the river. The main concern is that too much water will be pumped out of the river, which could not only worsen droughts, but also harm the wildlife that survives off of the river. By taking water out and moving it to a new location, more damage will be done than good.

Another main issue surrounding the Ramapo River is pollution. Events such as dam breaks or the misplacement of waste, similar to the mulching facility in Tuxedo, NY which lead to a massive fish kill, only further add to the stress of attempting to clean up pollution. Although there are efforts made by particular towns or organizations to clean up the river, without more help, their positive effects are limited to the areas they decided to focus on. More cooperation is needed by all the towns along the river, and even the states. If more groups and organizations stepped up in times of disaster,  in order to bring more national attention to the issue, more money or even help might be able to benefit the cause.

Extreme Weather Impact in India Is Alarming

Dear editor, The New York Times:

I found the article “A Volatile Brahmaputra River Will Grow Only More So”  by Brian Orland very informative and emotionally appealing. The fact that this part of the world in India may not be known to many people was not a negative factor in the overall outcome of the story. Often when people think of climate change, at least in America, it is focused on slight changes in weather, for example warm days in the winter. Seeing climate change on a larger and much more serious scale was eye opening.

The most compelling aspect of the article is how the reader is able to connect with people who are affected by global climate change on such a personal level. Hearing real life stories from someone who used to live in the area when it was a thriving agricultural region makes it much more effective in the sense that you begin to feel sorry for those affected.

Also, you allow the reader to realize just how extreme the situation has become, not just in terms of environmental issues, but also its effects on those who live there. Whereas before people were able to utilize the land for a time, and then migrate during the flood season, you portray clearly that this is no longer possible due to the extreme changes in weather. Today, people are forced to live in areas that flood, which shows how easily environmental issues can overlap, in this case population and climate change. The realization that one can lead to another or even have some sort of effect on it is what readers need to hear in order to start making changes.

I think that there are ways that even more information could have been given to the reader. Although the personal stories of those quoted make the article more appealing, it’s hard to connect to people who you only read about instead of actually see. Pictures of those who you talked to about the issue would have allowed readers to put a face to the issue, making it even more emotionally appealing and possibly gaining more followers on the issue. It has been seen in the past that it is difficult to get people involved in an issue unless they can picture someone who has been affected by it; people often need to see the damages in action in order to care.

An article like this can definitely help inform people about the horrible outcomes of global climate change. Although this story is not close to home, the idea that entire rivers will stop flowing, and then flood completely, is something that should alarm everyone, no matter where you live. The more people read this, the more predominant the issue will become. 

 Lisa Quaglino 
Mahwah, NJ

Monday, March 4, 2013

Global Warming is Natural, But We Still Need a Clean Environment

Dear Editor:

I am writing to you today regarding the issue of climate change. This is an issue that has been talked about since Al Gore first proposed Global Warming needed to be addressed. While I agree that greenhouse gases are damaging the environment, I do not blame them for the recent spike in global temperature. Throughout history, it has been proven that this planet goes through temperature changes. The ice age ended, without anybody being around to end it. There were no greenhouse gases to damage the atmosphere, but the temperature continued to rise regardless.

Based on what evidence I see, this is a pattern no different than we have seen in the past. This phase may be aided by the rise of carbon footprints and the greenhouse effect or whatever else people can think of, but I do not think the issue of Global Warming is as bad as people may think it is.
However, with that said, I do believe cleaning up the plant for the better is a necessary thing. Because the “potential” of Global Warming being true and the things causing it are rising in numbers, we still have to be proactive. Taking care of the environment and promoting the well-being of our future and the future of the next generations is important. We have to keep a clean planet. Things like industrial dumping need to be stopped. Paint sludge problems need to be stopped. All these things need to be stopped - not because they are damaging the environment, but rather because they are damaging our health.
 Thank you,
Anthony Smith

A Sprawling State Park, A Family's Gift

Lake Sebago, Harriman State Park
(photo/Jaimie Moscarello)

By Jaimie Moscarello

The second largest state park in New York is over 44,000 acres. It has over 200 miles of hiking trails, 31 lakes and reservoirs, three beaches, two public camping areas, streams and scenic roads for miles and a thriving habitat for wildlife. Where is it? Harriman State Park, the heart of the Palisades Interstate Park system and a large part of the headwaters for the Ramapo River.

Harriman is the largest park in the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC). The park has wheelchair accessible fishing, ice fishing, boat launches, cross-country skiing facilities, showers, a gift shop, museum/visitor’s center, playing fields, cabins, grills and picnic areas and is the host of a variety of children’s camps. 

Harriman State Park, near Sloatsburg, NY  (photo/Jan Barry)

In 1908, the Commission on New Prisons made plans to build a new prison at Bear Mountain. In January of 1909, the state of New York purchased 740 acres of Bear Mountain to build a new Sing Sing Prison. Edward Harriman, railroad mogul and his wife, Mary Averell Harriman, strongly opposed the state’s prison plan. The couple’s estate, 30,000 acres in Arden, New York was nearby.

After the death of her husband in 1910, Mary Harriman wrote a letter to the governor, Charles Evans Hughes, proposing she donate 10,000 acres of land in Orange and Rockland counties and $1 million in cash to construct a new state park. In return, the state would dispose of their plan for the prison and grant $2.5 million for more land and to build facilities for the park. Later, other titans of industry including John D. Rockefellar, J. Piermont Morgan and William Vanderbilt contributed to create the park and do away with the prison.

Major William A. Welch from Kentucky became General Manager and Chief Engineer of the Palisades Interstate Park and began construction on a road from Bear Mountain to Sloatsburg, today known as Seven Lakes Drive in 1913. Welch built 23 lakes, 100 miles of roads and 103 children’s camps. One of the seven lakes, Lake Welch Beach, is named for the Major.

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided labor to build roads, trails, camps and lakes in the park. In the 1960’s, more roads into the park were constructed. A steamboat service from Manhattan to Bear Mountain offered round trip tickets to the park, only 85 cents for adults and 45 cents for children.

For more information about visiting the park, go to or call (845) 786-2701.