Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ramapo River Not Easily Cleaned

By Anthony Smith

Since the time it was discovered that Ford Motor Company had been dumping toxic waste along the Ramapo River for years before the plant closed in 1980, the river has seen its share of problems.

Although efforts have been made to clean up the river and its tributaries, it has been a tough task to complete. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Rampo River’s water quality is impacted by “extensive urbanization and suburban/commercial development.”

Because overpopulation continues to spread throughout the areas surrounding the river, it will continue to be a difficult task.

A 2005 report by the Bergen Record titled “Toxic Legacy” exposed the problems that surround the river and throughout Bergen County. Aside from the paint sludge that was found near the river, many other contaminated sites were uncovered by the newspaper, many of which still have not been cleaned up. Many of these sites are gas stations that leaked petroleum fuel into the ground, contaminating ground water. Ground water and runoff flow into the river and its tributaries, enhancing the problems.

“Of particular concern is the protection of drinking water resources,” the NYSDEC report said. “Industrial and past hazardous waste site disposal are also noted as the source of some water quality impacts in the basin.”

In 2011, the river was heavily affected when Hurricane Irene struck, damaging a fuel oil storage area, causing thousands of gallons of oil to leak into the river.

“What you have is a variety of contaminants that people should avoid as best they can,” Larry Hajna, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, told the Bergen Record.

While that doesn’t say much about what exactly else was leaked into the river, it does show that there is a level on concern for the contaminants that nearby residents have to cope with. The ongoing issue of harmful materials that are leaked into the river and its sources will continue to be a problem as the area continues to grow in population.

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