Sunday, March 30, 2014

New York City: The Big Green Apple?

By Jonathan Mallon

For another class, I read a book entitled Green Metropolis by David Owen.  The subtitle of the book explained his purpose: “why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are the keys to sustainability.”  He also discussed why New York City was a fine example of practical energy efficiency, which was an interesting thesis (if not a little bold) to what amounted to a 324-page essay divided into chapters.

I’m not a big book reader, as long winded fiction and non-fiction doesn’t hold me like an essay or short article does, but I found myself both agreeing in some fascination with some of his information. I was also frustrated in disagreement over other information he presented, despite his mathematical reasoning.

Within the first chapter, Owen explained how New York is as green as other environmentally friendly cities, such as Portland, Oregon, and did it convincingly.  He explained that residents of the city individually used less energy and produced less pollution than when the area of the city was calculated by square feet.  One such way city residents did so was through the large use of public transportation and through the relatively smaller population of cars, which he (understandably) explained in future chapters as a cause of people wanting to move away from the city and what he called “sprawl,” both by people and non-compact suburban building development. 

Among other information presented that fit with his subtitle’s purpose, I agreed with this, mostly because it’s been documented (and it’s common sense) that when more people drive, even using the most energy-efficient vehicle and regardless of the distance, more harmful emissions are put into the environment.

However, there were some things I didn’t fully agree with Owen on.  Towards the end of his book, he discussed a non-profit organization’s program called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and how builders primarily built buildings that were supposed to be sustainable (with their materials, architecture, and/or technology) for the incentives LEED provided.  He also explained in another chapter how locavorism (eating locally-grown food) may not be completely sustainable, as some food from farther-away places may use less energy to grow and transport than in some local places.

While I found this information interesting, I kept thinking of one critical factor; not every place can be like the city, nor should it.  Yes, Owen discussed how outward expansion hurts the environment more than rising, compact infrastructures with multiple uses (apartments, office buildings, and little markets and food places below), and he also explained how the suburban use of cars was also detrimental to the environment, even the more energy efficient cars, but he didn’t realize that city life isn’t for everybody.  There are plenty of people who can’t live in an enclosed area like some parts of the city, hence the suburbs are the alternative. 

The environmental architecture he referred to as being based out of “LEED brain” may be more of a step in the right direction, despite the unnecessary large space the people he mentioned built.  Also, energy efficient cars may also be just another step, eventually leading the way to electric cars that while they’d create an overreliance on coal (which produces more emissions than gas), could be another step in the direction to more sustainable transportation outside of public transit.

Owen’s ideas are thought provoking, but in my opinion, not every place can be NYC.

Going Green: Cutting Down Paper Receipts

By Jonathan Mallon

Anybody who has worked retail or banking knows about issuing paper receipts.  In general (mainly for retail), when a customer pays for an object with a credit card, two receipts come out; one for the store and one for the customer.  The customer then signs the store receipt for the store’s own record keeping, and the second receipt is for the customer’s own record keeping.  However, that same customer may throw out their copy as soon as they get it or ask not to get their copy, which the store may throw out as well. 

Just recently, a Ramapo College student named Samuel Arnowitz created a petition on to create a federal regulation that makes all types of agencies ask if the customer wants a copy of their receipt with their orders.  In my experience and my environmental awareness, I think this would be a great idea.

I work at a major chain movie theater, where for the first few years I just gave out receipts to people as long as the machine printed them out without fully realizing what people would do after they get it.  I didn’t think it was wasteful, as long as people had a copy they could keep for record keeping in case some an error occurred on their order, among other problems.  About a year ago, some machines were still printing two receipt copies, and some were only printing one for the theater’s own records.  I still worked pretty automatically, assuming the machines were just broken (which they may be, to an extent), until I overheard a friend of mine asking customers if they’d like a receipt copy.  She explained to me why she asked, though it was more for customer convenience than environmental conservation.  Still, I realized she was on to something, and I soon followed what she did.

According to an article by Will Hines on a blog in, there are many unsustainable elements that go into receipt production.  He explained that more than “250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees, and 1 billion gallons of water are consumed each year in the creation of receipts for the United States alone,” creating a lot of waste.  Hines also said that the paper used for receipts, called thermal paper, contained the cancer-causing chemical BPA, which made receipt paper unrecyclable.

First off, the resources that go into receipt production could easily go to other things (which unfortunately might lead to other environmental issues), so cutting down the amount of paper receipts used would be a start.  Hines promoted an organization called Reseed to encourage the use of electronic receipts, albeit on a more local level before moving outward.  E-receipts, in theory, would be a better solution upon better technology and more widespread use.

Before that future is here, small steps will have to do.  A rule requiring a retail person asking a customer if they’d like a receipt is a small start in cutting down waste and resource use.  I wonder how it would be enforced if it’s enacted, and I feel it would bring up other legal issues as well.  However, it would save on resources and help decrease deforestation, however small the decrease may be.

While there is the issue of electronic devices being easier to get information from than a paper trail, I support this petition.

Find Arnowitz’s petition at:

Keystone Pipeline Still a Hot Issue

By Tiffany Liang

For years, the Internet has been rife with discussion of the Keystone Pipeline project and the implications. On February 9, 2005, TransCanada Corporation proposed the project. This company is based in Alberta, Canada and owns thousands of miles of pipeline used for oil and natural gas transportation. This project is for a pipeline to transport crude oil derived from tar sands from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The project has been divided into four phases. Phase 1 has been in operation since 2011 and runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. Phase 2 has also been in operation since 2011 and runs from Steele City to Cushing, Oklahoma. Phase 3 runs from Cushing to two separate stations in Texas. The first station, in Nederland, began operation on January 21 this year.

Phase 4 is the most controversial section of the pipeline. Like Phase 1, it is proposed to run from Hardisty to Steele City. Environmentalist groups such as and Tar Sands Action argue that Phase 4’s construction would cause pollution that is of special concern, since it runs over the Ogallala Aquifer, an important source of drinking water for eight states. Portions of the pipeline also pass over active seismic zones.

As of March 2014, President Obama has not approved the Phase 4 section of the Keystone Pipeline (Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman issued his approval in January 2013). Whether or not Phase 4 is approved, it will have serious implications for Obama’s presidency.

For more on the pros and cons of this project, go to and

Thursday, March 13, 2014

DuPont-Pompton Lakes Update

By Tiffany Liang

DuPont is a chemical company that has operated in the United States for a long time. Originally an explosives manufacturer, the company is also partially responsible for the invention of clorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a compound used in aerosols and refrigerants. Nowadays, DuPont has widely expanded its manufacturing base to include electronics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the latter of which are used in food crops. It continues to operate plants in and outside the United States.

From 1902 to 1994, DuPont operated an explosives plant in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey—the property also extended into neighboring Wanaque. After the plant closed, DuPont began efforts to clean up the site, which had been heavily contaminated. The site is under the jurisdiction of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, though a citizen’s group is pushing for a Superfund site designation. The affected area contains volatile organic compounds in the groundwater, which is affecting a number of homes through vapor intrusion, as well as lead and mercury in the soils and sediments.

Ten metals were deposited in Acid Brook and Pompton Lake through the plant’s operation. DuPont has installed a pump and treat plant for the ground water and remediated numerous sites in a residential neighborhood. In 2011, however, the company said it would only take responsibility for its mercury deposits, though it would remove other contaminates “co-located” with mercury. The company promised to remove thousands of tons of contaminated soil and to dredge Pompton Lake accordingly.

Until the plant site and lake sediment have been remediated to acceptable levels, residents of Pompton Lakes, Wanaque, and possibly Riverdale and Pompton Plains, which are downstream, will continue to live with lead, copper and mercury potentially in the riverbank soils and drinking water.

The next public information session, hosted by the EPA, will be held on March 19 at 3-5 pm and 7-9 pm at Carnevale Center, 10 Lenox Ave. in Pompton Lakes. Another meeting with EPA representatives will be held on April 1 at 1 pm at the Elks Lodge on 15 Perrin Ave., also in Pompton Lakes.

For more information:

New Jersey's Climate Change Non-Solution

Dear Editor,

Joe Tyrrell's November 30, 2011 article “Global warming experts paint a bleak picture of N.J.'s future” describes the future of New Jersey's climate to be less-than-stellar. It describes a future with month-long spells of 100-degree weather, ground-level ozone pollution increasing in the central part of the state, farmers having to switch crops to accommodate for rising temperatures, rising sea levels threatening coastal communities, and more frequent severe storms threatening Atlantic City. No one wants the future of New Jersey to look like this.

At the end of the article, it is suggested that the only way for a climate policy to be effective is to place a price on carbon fuel “that reflects the damage it does to health and environments.” This is false.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is cited, which is a regional “cap-and-trade” system implemented in Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. A “cap-and-trade” system means that a total limit is set on the pollutant (greenhouse gases) by a governing body, which then sells permits to private firms so that they can emit the pollutant only to the amount specified by their held permits. Private firms who need to emit more of the pollutant than they are allowed under their permits can purchase additional permits from other firms to offset their emissions.

Initially, this may sound like a good idea. Of course, since it's a “market solution” (with little government involvement), it must be the best idea to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Who wants government “on their backs,” right?

Unfortunately, the “cap-and-trade” system, which was used to limit sulfur dioxide emissions in the 1990s in response to a significant increase in acid rain and acidification of water bodies in the northeastern United States, will not work in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The issue of sulfur dioxide emissions was very different from our current issue of anthropogenic global warming in several significant ways.

The sulfur dioxide emissions problem in the 1990s was extremely limited in scope. The main producers of sulfur dioxide are coal-fired electric plants. In the United States, the problem emitters were 110 power plants, mostly in the Midwest. The problem emitters were not all over the globe, and in every industry.

It was also only an issue involving stationary sources. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 27 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 were due to transportation. It's difficult to regulate emitters of a pollutant if every vehicle is a polluter. According to a Department of Transportation study, there were an estimated 254.4 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States alone in 2007.

The technology had also already been developed to decrease sulfur dioxide emissions, such as the installation of “scrubbers” on the smoke stacks of coal-fired electric plants. There is no suitable technology developed to date that would “scrub” the greenhouse gases from the exhaust before releasing it from vehicle tailpipes. Nor would it be worthwhile to do so, either.

The best technology developed is the technology that never has to be implemented.

Anthropogenic global warming is a design problem. Design a world where people don't need to burn fossil fuels (emit greenhouse gases), and the problem is solved. Mixed-use development will help, which is when retail, commercial, and residential uses of properties are inter-woven together rather than being separated and spread out, so that all products and services can be acquired within walking distance. Limiting deforestation will also help, since plants absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as an input for photosynthesis. So will transitioning from conventional agriculture, a fossil-fuel intensive process, to organic agriculture, which produces more food per acre anyway.

But that's only a start.

Kyle Van Dyke
Ramsey, NJ

Monday, March 10, 2014

EPA Updates DuPont Remediation; Pompton Lakes Citizen Advocacy Continues

By Colin English

On February 18, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency issued an updated newsletter about its remedial efforts for the DuPont contamination in Pompton Lakes; and the residents of Pompton continue to struggle to abate the socio-economic consequences of the Superfund site in their town. Both of these recent developments represent the continuing saga surrounding the DuPont contamination that has plagued Pompton and its citizens for decades.

The EPA newsletter details a series of improvements to the mitigatory actions being taken by the federal agency and DuPont Chemical. These include: EPA field oversight of DuPont contractors; additional testing for vapor intrusion of contaminants into the Lakeside Middle School; a bioremediation pilot study by the EPA intended to extract and treat contaminated groundwater with a bioagumentation culture; as well as flood control systems to their existing hydraulic surcharging system of the groundwater. The EPA and DuPont have conducted additional testing of the groundwater flows in Pompton but have not remediated the plumes that constitute the major contaminant sources.

The longevity of these plumes in the groundwater has caused public complaints of illnesses, environmental degradation, and other headaches for the local residents. Another way this malignant material still harms the community is through property value and taxes. The most obvious damage that environmental contaminants have is how they harm the local ecology, such as groundwater quality. Toxins can also erode any number of factors of a region, such as psychological health of the people within the communities, the property values of homeowners, and the productivity of businesses. For a local organization called Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes (CCPL), taxes are one of the many diffuse and varied difficulties they face due to decades of contamination and remedial food-dragging.
The founder of CCPL, Lisa Riggiola, conveyed surveys on February 6th to homeowners around the contaminant plumes in the groundwater intended to assess if property values have changed, if home values have decreased, if is it currently feasible to refinance or sell their homes, or if will they feel forced from their homes in the future due to the stigma and health hazards from living atop contaminants. Initial survey results indicated that residents are losing thousands of dollars in home value, they have been unable to refinance and sell due to the economic losses and environmental stigma, and their property taxes have not decreased to mitigate those losses.

EPA and DuPont have not fully remediated the toxic plumes and face public discord about clean up plans. The EPA newsletter, however, offers the appearance that everything is under control, that the public and full scope of the situation are being carefully considered, and that their organizational processes are sufficient. To many Pompton Lakes residents and the CCPL, a clean slate for the community and a remediated environment are still out of reach.

For more information:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Obama's Environmental Promises

By Jesus Santos   

The National Geographic posted on its Daily News online a review of President Barrack Obama’s promise of helping the environment in his State of the Union address in 2013. The article by Dan Stone titled “Has Obama Kept Promises on Climate Since Last State of the Union?” portrayed the slow movement of his promise. 

For example,  people who wrote a letter to Obama “argue that Obama has pursued a policy that simply encourages all forms of energy production, expanding oil and natural gas drilling just as aggressively as he has promoted solar and wind power and electric cars,” which has caused many of the environmentalists to be frustrated with Obama. The President said that he will stop at nothing to move forward with his promise even if Congress does not agree because his priority is the health concerns of the future, including the children that will have to grow up with a bad life because of the environmental damage we did today.

The problem that people have the most with Obama’s promises is that he says he plans on doing something but then it is never addressed again. For instance, one of his first promises was “the creation of an Energy Security Trust, which over the next decade would steer $2 billion in oil and natural gas royalties to fund research into biofuels, fuel cells, and advanced batteries,” Stone wrote, and then he never mentioned the movement or advancement of this promise. This causes people to think that Obama only promises things in order to get the audience on his side and then he gives up on it because it requires too much money on behalf of the government in this unstable society.

However, not all of Obama’s hard work has gone unnoticed, which is why I believe that it does not take a man to change the world, that we all have to try in order for the world to be a better place. For example, “Obama has said he wants the federal government—the nation's largest energy user—to set an example on energy efficiency and pollution reduction,” wrote Stone, and he has set the example by saving “$65 million in energy costs last year.”

Therefore, what Obama and the government need to realize is that they are a team and they need to work together in order to have a happier nation.

There are both positives and negatives about the way that President Obama has led the country for the past 5 years; however, this article focuses more on the negative because it is easier to see the glass half empty. Instead of putting so much pressure on Obama and forgetting the rest of the government as part of the team, we need to realize these problems were already on the horizon way before he took the presidency. President Obama has only taken this into his own hands, but what I do agree with the critics is that he should stop making promises he cannot keep.

Ramapo River Basin’s Susceptibility to Contamination

By Joseph Farley

The Ramapo River Basin, vitally important to the area’s drinking water supply, faces constant threats from a variety of sources. The basin’s sand and gravel aquifers are especially susceptible to contamination.

Volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and other hazardous substances have contaminated the river. Besides industrial pollution, a source of much contamination came from the Ramapo Valley Landfill. The biggest problem was the landfill’s proximity to the Spring Valley Water Company’s (now United Water) well field.

This posed major problems and similar events are likely to happen unless the area is better monitored. The village of Suffern’s wells suffered from serious contamination problems due to industrial contamination. Water was restricted for days as crews attempted to rid the water supply of methyl chloroform.

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that there are no economically feasible alternative sources for water, so protection and surveillance of the Ramapo River Basin is of the upmost importance.

There needs to be restricted access to vulnerable areas, as well as increased vigilance to potential outside risks. For example, if a ecoterrorist contaminated the supply it could cut into a large part of New Jersey and New York’s water supply. Our government doesn’t really seem to brace for domestic attacks such as this, but these could have devastating effects. Take for instance the coal chemicals leak in West Virginia, and imagine there was malicious intent behind the plume of pollution and not just greed and neglect. I think the outcome would be much more drastic.

The Ramapo River Basin is extremely important to the area. It is a vital part of the ecology and should be protected as such.

For more information: http:

Flood Waters' Toxic Legacy

By Jesus Santos

Last September, an article by Glenn Scherer appeared in Living Green Magazine titled “Biblical Floods Leave Toxic Legacy,” which dealt with the big flood in Colorado, hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and superstorm Sandy in New Jersey and New York.  These are three different regions in the United States where flood waters caused massive amount of money to be spent while exposing a lot of toxic material. These floods caused homes to be destroyed, toxics to be spilled in water and spread in the air.

“It’s known that Sandy spread 11 billion gallons of raw sewage across eight states, according to a study by—enough to fill 250,000 swimming pools,” Scherer wrote, which is why in New Jersey people could not drive in certain areas because of how polluted it was.

It is hard to determine how the United States and countries around the world can live a healthier life for the future and have a better environmental climate when these natural disasters continue to occur.

The article points out how the world is becoming warmer and wetter and there is an increase in temperature from years before, such as the few days of snow last winter in New Jersey, and the the increase in temperature is also causing ice glaciers to break and many animals to fend for their lives or otherwise being pushed to extinction.

It also notes the percentage of how much everything changed from the middle of the 1900’s. The article states that “between 1958 and 2011, precipitation falling in heavy downpours increased by an astounding 74 percent in the Northeast U.S., 45 percent in the Midwest, 26 percent in the Southeast, 21 percent in the High Plains states, and 12 percent in the Rockies and most of the West, according to NOAA.”

The only way that the nation can protect itself from more rising temperature and weather is to take care of the small things; use less power, less energy, and stop mass producing items which ultimately forces factories and many other industrial workers to release more gas into the world. The release of this gas is what causes toxic to be release into the air and what opens the hole in the ozone layer. The sad part is that these natural disasters continue to happen because of  a toxic legacy which produces more natural disasters which produces more toxic legacy, therefore the nation is facing a bad cycle that it is hard to stop. While promises have been made in regards to helping the environment nothing is too certain on how to stop these disasters from occurring.

Another step to prevent more toxic legacy to happen is to protect homes, buildings, and other toxic potential places by securing them from natural disasters. The article states that both “the fossil fuel and chemical industries, and others who work with dangerous substances, need to develop realistic disaster plans to protect against release during floods.”

I feel that the United States is very prone and open to harm from these natural disasters to happen and occurring mass toxics to be released. The world should be more informed of the ways that people can help the environment in order to produce less gas to be wasted; public transportation should be more of an option for people, tobacco companies should stop advertising and glamorizing cigarettes since it causes air damage, and people should be more aware that their waste is what is causing these disasters to happen more and more often.

For more information:

Ramapo River Update

By Tiffany Liang

The Ramapo River begins in Orange County, New York and flows into New Jersey, where it becomes a tributary of the Passaic River and ultimately flows into Newark Bay. The watershed this river is a part of covers more than three counties and supplies drinking water to over two million people in northern New Jersey; with part of the river diverted into the Wanaque Reservoir.

People have been utilizing this source of surface water for a long, long time. In fact, some of its earliest users are still alive today—namely, the Ramapough Lenape Indians. With three sub-clans in Mahwah, Ringwood, and Hillburn, this tribe has been around since before the colonization of North America. They have historically used the Ramapo River for recreation, fishing, and water supply.

But now, the Ramapo River is showing signs that not all is well below the surface. In 2011, when Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey, parts of the river’s banks eroded severely. The erosion exposed large chunks of lead-based paint sludge, which had been buried in the ground for decades.

In the 1960’s, Ford Motors dumped toxic paint sludge from its plant in Mahwah, New Jersey into the communities of Ringwood, New Jersey and Hillburn, New York. In Hillburn, there are three major dumping sites. One of them, by the banks of the Ramapo River, was remediated in the spring of 2013. In Ringwood, the residents are embroiled in a battle against Ford and the EPA, fighting to have their dumping site completely remediated.

Officials say it is unlikely that large chunks of paint, which contain contaminants such as lead and benzene, have fallen into the Ramapo River and affected the downstream water supply. However, environmentalists have been pushing for a comprehensive study of the river’s health, which Ford is reluctant to carry out.

A public meeting hosted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss Ford’s proposed cleanup plans for paint sludge dump sites along Torne Brook, a tributary of the Ramapo River, is scheduled for March 12 at 7 pm at the Suffern Free Library, 210 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY.

For more information:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ramapo College Students to Investigate Environmental Justice

By Colin English
The Environmental Studies program at Ramapo College hosts a senior-level class called “Environmental Assessment,” which serves as a cumulative, experiential capstone. Through it, students learn to cohesively formulate the structure, research and data and interdisciplinary thought to create a professional-quality Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS). Each year the senior class tackles a different local or regional issue by acting as an environmental consulting firm to a private client.

This year, I am a co-Project Manager of Research and Investigation for Society and the Environment, the student-firm created to aid the Ramapough-Lenape Nation Turtle Clan of Ringwood navigate the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ringwood Superfund Site remedial process. Our class will perform a nuanced EIS with a specific focus on Environmental Justice due to the decades of contamination, complications, contentions, and inadequacies surrounding the remediation of Ford’s dump site in Ringwood. Throughout the semester, we will investigate the adverse impacts of contamination by Ford and others to communities like the Ramapough-Lenape Nation Turtle Clan, as well as to important ecological and historical sites such as the Ramapo River.

In the 1960s and 70s, Ford Motor Company and other parties disposed of massive amounts of industrial waste at various sites including mining pits and wooded areas. The affected Ringwood area became the first Federal Superfund site to be re-listed in 2006 to the National Priorities List, twelve years after it was reported to have been remediated by Ford. A long history of ecological degradation and social detriment, as well as insufficient action from the EPA, responsible parties, and other organizations, have complicated the current remedial process. Approximately five decades after the dumping, a meaningful and adequate resolution has not been reached. Our class has been called upon to compile a document to replace poor existing documentation of Environmental Justice issues and to garner a more positive remediation for the Ringwood site.

The foundations for our student project include the documentary Mann v. Ford and the  Toxic Legacy multimedia compilation prepared by The Record. They both document the extensive sociological and health ramifications for the local populations, namely the Ramapough-Lenape Nation Turtle Clan of Ringwood, and the persistent damage to the ecological systems in the area. Local communities that integrate hunting, gardening and other natural-resource gathering into their culture are especially susceptible to contaminant hazards that persist in their local environment.

The dangers that they have lived around for decades include, but are not limited to, breathing volatile organics such as Benzene that off-gas outside their houses; ingesting flora and fauna that have accumulated high levels of the toxics; experiencing physical contact to exposed, persistent paint sludge; living in a ecologically, aesthetically, and culturally degraded area that has been significantly transformed by the toxic conditions; including that the local and regional communities can no longer safely drink, fish, or recreate in the water systems. Speaking with the Ramapoughs, studying the available data, and formulating what research has yet to be collected about Environmental Justice issues all provide a fuller sense of the devastation and continued potential for harm to residents and the environment.

In addition to the dumping in Ringwood, Ford also dumped paint sludge in areas along and near the Ramapo River upstream of its assembly plant in Mahwah. Many historically and culturally significant functions of the Ramapo River, such as recreational and subsistence fishing, and cultural recreation for the children, are no longer safe to do. There has been little sustained media coverage of river contamination that serves to update the communities and local citizens on these hazards. The majority of the contamination still remains where it was dumped, continuously polluting the communities and invaluable water systems.

Waters from the Ramapo River flow directly to reservoirs that over two million people rely on each day. Despite the lack of official and public attention paid to this continued struggle, our involvement has the possibility to provide coverage of these events for the public and concerned citizens, as well as to become part of the solution to a problem that has festered for decades. If we are successful, a cleaner, healthier Ramapo River and regional watershed are hopeful consequences.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Kerry Calls Climate Change a Weapon of Mass Destruction

Dear Editor,

Global warming has been a term used for many years now. It has been thrown around and debated overtime between scientists and the public.  Global warming may in fact be losing it’s dramatic impact. I find this to be of utmost concern. There are people who frankly just don’t care about the environment, there are people who believe that global warming is a scam to create business, and some people are like Secretary of State John F. Kerry who face the facts and are ready to make a change.

Uneducated citizens are choosing to not believe in global warming. Especially those here on the east coast who have been experiencing record breaking cold temperatures and loads more snow then they are used to. What people are confusing as weather may in fact be part of climate change. The term global warming may not necessarily be the easiest term for people to grasp.  This is mainly because people focus on the “warming” part, instead of the drastic climate change patterns.

Here in New Jersey, as people shovel feet of snow from their driveways, they commonly think to themselves “global warming is a hoax.” When in reality they are judging from a single instance of extreme weather and are not focusing on the bigger picture. New Jersey residents, of all people, should be observant of the fact that it is not a hoax. Hurricane Sandy, the most devastating hurricane we have had yet, is proof climate change is a reality and all inhabitants of the Earth should focus their attention on trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

I personally believe it is difficult for people to associate the reality of global warming because they do not witness it first hand. Yes, we are experiencing global climate change, but maybe we should be paying more attention to how global climate change is affecting islands such as the islands in Indonesia. People are hesitant to trust information because of a disconnection of real life visuals.
Yes, the Earth does go through periods of warming and it has been scientifically proven so. However, we have sped up the process of the Earth warming to a point where our future is at stake. Previously, the blame was placed on the United States in the West and the modern industrialization advances. In his speech in Indonesia, Secretary of State Kerry acknowledged that every human being on Earth is a contributor and therefore needs to reduce global impact. The actions of just one country aren’t going to make a difference if the rest of the world isn’t on board. Since the beginning of mankind we have lived at one with nature. However, now in the modern world we are ultimately taking over the Earth and impacting nature in ways our ancestors never did.

The global solution to combat climate change is still under questioning. We know we have to do something, but what can we do? I feel that there are so many efforts underway, but also so many dilemmas as well. The truth is humans are not yet ready to change their lifestyles. Meanwhile countries such as the United States and China are teaming up and discussing ways that they can reduce their carbon footprint. Change is coming, but will it be soon enough?

-- Brianne Bishop

Changing Mindsets over Matter

By Brianne Bishop

While attending a presentation at Ramapo College about permaculture, I came to the realization that humans are approaching global climate change in the wrong manner. Everyone’s solution to global climate change is new design. The designing of eco-villages (which are not the answer), the designing of new cleaner ways to extract energy, the designing of newer and more innovative structures seem like perfectly reasonable solutions. What if I said they’re not? I learned from the speaker, Andrew Faust, that designing new structures and new inventions is actually contributing to the issue of climate change. We don’t need to design new, we need to design smart and sustainably.

Think about it. Making new products, for example, wind turbines to produce new energy is a cleaner alternative than relying on coal. However, creating these products also means requiring more production chains, which requires more parts to be shipped from all over the United States and probably even China. Not to mention, what type of energy are the companies using to create the wind turbines? Is it wind energy, renewable energy, or is it coal? These are the types of growing concerns that environmental activists have today. Even new inventions such as bio-fuels and bio-diesel are not long-term reliable solutions. What will happen when we have to turn to using bio-fuels in mass quantities? What will happen to our crops once used for food? These are the questions of the future that remain unanswered.

The main issue the American population is facing is our focus on consumerism. As the presenter pointed out, we have to look into changing our economy base. Currently, our economy revolves around consumerism, which is evidentially contributing to environmental issues. How can we solve these issues? For starters we can begin looking at the mistakes we have made in the past and learn from them. We have not yet learned from our mistakes in the past to make changes in the way in which we produce. Our future will only improve if we wean off of mass production practices. We must focus on the future of permaculture, which is the idea of energy cycling. But before we can do that we have to change our mindsets over trying to change matter. The truth is that we need to design sustainable and we need to keep permaculture ideas in mind.

I think it’s amusing how easily citizens buy into companies boasting their products as green. Some people want to do what they can to help save the environment, but do little to educate themselves on these issues. Therefore they see something in the grocery store marked as “all natural” or “made with natural ingredients” and purchase it just because of these labels. I will admit, I do this as well and buy green cleaning products, but I realized that just because I buy naturally derived plant-disinfecting wipes doesn’t mean anything. I am still using these wipes and throwing them in the trash, and there lays the actual issue. Yes, the wipes are made of a biodegradable material, but what does that mean? How long does it take the wipes to degrade?

A majority of the public, and even I, have no idea what we are actually doing for the Earth by buying these green products. Looking at the facts, we are still creating waste, even if it is doing it by being a little greener. The global citizens need to improve on educating one another on what we can do as a global community to save our beloved planet Earth.

Paint Sludge with your Water?

By Brianne Bishop

If you’re a resident of Mahwah, New Jersey, you most likely know about the Ford Motor Company assembly plant that resided here just off Rt. 17. This was no small factory and was approximately the size of seven football fields. The plant closed down in 1980 after 25 years of business, but remnants of the Ford Motor plant remain in the area. One can only image the degree of pollutants this production chain of vast size contributed.

The remnants of the Ford Motor Company are not the structural components, but rather remains that are more permanent and undesirable to surrounding residents. The paint sludge, which is highly toxic to humans, created a 500-acre Superfund site in neighboring Ringwood, endangering the health of many of the Ramapough Indians who live there, plus other hazardous dump sites along or near the Ramapo River in Hillburn, NY.

The paint sludge consists of lead, arsenic, benzene, and other toxic substances. More of this substance has been exposed after damaging hurricanes such as Irene and Sandy, not to mention numerous floods and other weather patterns have most likely contributed to the exposure of these elements. So why is this concerning? Well, because there are traces of these chemicals in the drinking water.

The Ford company has conducted clean ups of small areas of the Ringwood and Hillburn sites, however there is still more progress to be done. The latest efforts in Hillburn began in February 2013, and still have many years to go until the clean up is complete. The toxic mixture has embedded itself in the riverbank soil. This is a problem because the Ramapo River is a central source of water for New Jersey. If the toxins are in the soil and the soil comes in contact with the water, lead, arsenic, benzene and other toxic substances are present in our drinking water. Thirsty yet?

It is questionable as to when and if Ford will complete this cleanup it has committed to. There was a $10 million settlement with the Ramapough Indians who live in Ringwood. I think that every resident who drinks from the water source that the Ramapo River provides should get compensation too. Those toxic chemicals, if present in drinking water, can cause a number of medical issues and diseases over time. It should be required that residents get their water tested in order to ensure everyone’s safety.

It has been reported that there have not been any official reports of these chemicals present in the water, however, “it is possible that a small amount has washed down,” according to a news article on This leads the reader and residents to believe that an investigation on how this paint sludge has affected the area has not yet been completed. Reporters who have come in contact with the paint sludge have reported how foul smelling the substance is.

It is surprising to learn that the initial clean up did not include the riverbed itself, when it is entirely possibly the sludge could have gotten into the body of water. Ford has been responsible for the cleanup and has been developing a plan of action with the Environmental Protection Agency for dealing with an estimated 30,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil; so far, only 2,000 cubic yards have been cleaned. The goal is to clean up the present paint sludge in order to prevent it from settling on the bottom of the Ramapo River, if it has not done so already.

Ramapo River Watershed Conference To Discuss Cleanup Plan

By Anthony Vigna

The Annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference at Ramapo College is being planned for Friday, April 18th to discuss various local issues, including continuing pollution problems in the Ramapo River.

These issues include pollution from flooding, such as the spill in 2011 when surging water hit a riverside fuel company, dumping around 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel or home heating oil into the river. Geoff Welch, chairman of the Ramapo River Committee and organizer of the upcoming Watershed Conference, has been fighting to save the river from future flooding contamination.

“I’m very worried,” he told The Record. “It’s the worst spill I’ve seen in the river.”

Other damage to the river includes traces of paint sludge that were found in the waters last year. The paint originated from a dump initiated by Ford Motor Company decades ago that made its way into the river when the banks eroded from Hurricane Irene a couple of years ago.

"Chunks could get into the river, and then those chunks could break down," Welch told The Record. "We certainly don't want it washing down and becoming part of the gravel. You have to make sure they get it all out."

Chuck Stead, local environmental educator, remembers witnessing Ford dumping paint as a boy back in the mid-1960s. At the time, he said he thought they were excavating, but he now realizes what happened and sees the consequences of Ford’s actions.

“I eventually poked around. The way it worked is guys would drive their trucks here with 55-gallon drums of paint in them,” he told the Sloatsburg Village newspaper. “If you could put six barrels in the back of your truck and make them disappear in the middle of the night, you’d get a hundred dollar bill.”

Many residents of towns along the Ramapo River agree that something must be done to clean the river. Despite many initiatives to clean the river and even cleanup support from Ford, the river is still a long way from being entirely clean.

With the lives of people in jeopardy due to this massive pollution, more initiatives are required. The current plans and actions will be discussed at the Ramapo River Watershed Conference, including a remedy for the paint sludge that was dumped along riverbanks and a major tributary.

The event is open to anyone that wants to attend, and admission is free. The event will feature a variety of speakers and free food. Reservations must be emailed to Geoff Welch prior to the event at

A major focus of the event at Ramapo College is to help development of new strategies for fixing the river. Sarah Spett, Mahwah Environmental Volunteer Organization’s Town Coordinator, believes that bringing people together is the best way to stop this pollution.

“Our goal in Mahwah is to unite Mahwah High School, Ramapo College, and the people of Mahwah to evoke change for the environment,” Spett said.

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Permaculture: "Ecological Common Sense"

By Joseph Farley

Permaculture and bioregionalism are something you don’t hear much about in the mainstream media. It’s treated as a bunch of tree huggers or hippies in the woods, a utopian society that isn’t at all achievable. However, after listening to Andrew Faust speak on the subject, it became so clear and seemed incredibly logical. It makes you think why haven’t we been doing this already for years. Building things in areas that are already suited for what it being built, what a concept! Faust is a compelling public speaker, and he himself stresses the simplicity of the vision, saying “it’s not rocket science,” he calls it ecological common sense. It focuses on self maintained agriculture and sustainable architecture for a brighter future.
Faust, who spoke at Ramapo College recently, teaches at the Center for Bioregional Living in Brooklyn, New York. He also teaches courses and workshops on permaculture and sustainable living. Bill Mollison, who coined the term permaculture, said, “permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” Basically, we shouldn’t be building or throwing up structures without taking into account if the land it’s being built on can sustain such a stress.
However, there are things we can do to improve the infrastructure we already have, especially in our major urban areas. Faust talks about using permaculture principles to make upgrades to the urban landscape and help it move towards self-sufficiency. He argues that these goals are all reachable and sustainable, but we must choose to act and strive forward. The more we get the message out there the more likely it is that these objectives will be achieved. There are obstacles, mainly big businesses that focus more on profit margins than the impact they are making on the environment. Money and greed is the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of bioregionalism and sustainable living.
The first permaculture principle is probably the most important, in addition to being the most obvious. It is observe and interact, by taking the time to get to know the land we can design solutions that best fit a given situation. Collecting and storing energy is also essential, but the first principle is the most important to understand the system. As Faust says, “by balancing human needs with ecological integrity, we can heal ourselves while also healing the land.”

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Caribbean Islands Plan for Renewable Energy

By Devin Hartmann

In any talks about energy, the subject of renewable energy is bound to come up.  A speaker on sustainability who addressed Ramapo College students on February 6, Andrew Faust, made a point that we shouldn’t rely on one type of renewable energy—wind, solar, or water—but that a combination of all three would be the most effective. That’s so the load of renewable energy wouldn’t be dedicated to one source should one fail. In other words, if a solar grid were to go down or become inoperable for a while we would still have two other sources to gain energy from. 

On the same day, The New York Times had an article about some of the Caribbean islands agreeing to switch from diesel to renewable sources like wind, solar or the earth’s heat. The countries involved include St Lucia, Turks, Caicos, and the British Virgin Islands. These countries signed a pact at a meeting organized by the Carbon War Room. Richard Branson, founder of the organization, announced a deal with NRG Energy to install solar and wind power on Necker Island, covering up to 80% of the power needs, as a test run to show how this can be accomplished.

A common concern when talking renewable energy is would it cost more than using fossil fuels. These fears are even more troubling on the small population islands in the Caribbean, where going to banks for loans for renewable energy is challenging because the size of the projects are considered too small or don’t meet standard contracts and regulations.

The Carbon War Room is hopeful however, having already started on Aruba where a wind farm is already functional with more on the way. Solar arrays are also being planned along with experimental storage systems. St Lucia has been testing uses of solar and plans to start experimenting with wind and geothermal development.  “With our economy, with the level of unemployment that we have, if you can create some more green jobs, if you can reduce some of the expenditures that we’re seeing right now, particularly on oil, it would increase the island’s economic competitiveness,” said James Fletcher, minister for sustainable development.

The Necker Island Project also has plans for waste-to-energy plants, using LED lights on streetlights, and setting up a micro grid made up of solar, wind and battery technology with software that could help reduce energy consumption and balance the need and use of the energy. The hopes of NRG Energy are to continue work in the Caribbean and eventually the United States when it would become more affordable. Micro grids are still too expensive for most of the states.   

My take on all of this is that this is a start. Getting isolated countries like the islands in the Caribbean on these types of grids and using renewable energy resources is a good start to show how this type of technology can be incredibly beneficial. They are being used as test locations to show the long term effects that will happen economically and that, while a little expensive at the moment,  this will be worth the extra money put in when we start to see the rewards including reducing spending on oil and the creation of green jobs.

About Climate Change

To the Editor:

In a report on in November 2011, it was found that global climate change may change the lifestyle of the people of New Jersey by the middle of the century. The report indicates that by the 2050’s Atlantic City and Long Beach Island will be threatened by rising tides at the current rate of how things are going. Along with month-long heat waves topping 100-degree weather in urban “heat islands” and crops unsuitable to grow in the hotter climate, the people of New Jersey are in for some rough times with risks to their health and businesses.

So what are the leaders of not only New Jersey but also our national government doing about this threat to the citizens of New Jersey? Two former governors spoke about this at a conference at Rutgers University, co-sponsored by the Public Service Enterprise Group and Clean Air, Cool Planet. The governors agree that change needs to be made and both made good points. Jim Florio, the 49th governor, talked about adopting solar power and wind power to support clean energy efforts. Tom Kean, the 48th, noted the lack of national support on the issue, stating that it is up to the public to force a change in the climate issue. He added that climate change has been linked to the increase in burning of fossil fuels for a long time and that recent research has confirmed the early reports of the danger.

More recently, on February 16, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry implored Indonesia to start making changes to combat climate change, stating that the nation’s resouces and economy will be in danger. The rising sea level could flood Jakarta, the capital, to the point where most of the city would be under water, and the warming of the seas along the coast could heavily impact the fishing industry.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say to you that your entire way of life that you live and love is at risk,” Kerry said in his speech to the island nation. He stated that Indonesia is the frontline of climate change, acting as a precursor as what is to come if the climate continues on this path. The warmer water and the increasing acidity in the water could impact the fish income by forty percent, and a mere three foot rise in sea level could put half of the capital underwater.

Indonesia is a major emitter of greenhouse gas, behind China and the United States; according to The Washington Post. The main source of these emissions is deforestation; however, the country’s growing population’s use of electricity from coal-fired power plants would increase emissions rapidly.

Climate change is not just an American problem, as Kerry noted, and it will negatively affect the entire globe in one way or another.

We are getting closer and closer to the point of no return, the point where a country will have to suffer major losses that will take decades to repair. There is still a little time before that and it seems that world leaders are starting to realize this. With parts of America now in danger, now is the time to start making changes. While we are not the leading example of climate change reforms, we are slowly working towards it and helping other countries realize the dangers to come.

-- Devin Hartmann 

Climate Change Is Global Wake Up Call

To the editor,

Did you know that by the year 2050, one-fourth of Earth’s species would be heading towards extinction? This is an alarming prediction provided by, which could become a reality if we don’t act fast enough to prevent this and preserve human life. However, the cause of this prediction isn’t war or famine, its climate change. This is a very real issue that more people need to be informed about, as ignorance could threaten our world’s sustainability.
The biggest issue with climate change is human behavior. We’re so dependent on natural gas, coal, and petroleum that we are too stubborn to adopt a substitute, even when it’s threatening our way of life! We ignore the fact that this energy in non-renewable. We ignore the fact that this energy is not clean and is harming our environment. We ignore the fact that there are other better sources of energy out there for us to utilize. So, what does the entirety of the human race continue to do? Stay complacent by continuing to use limited sources of energy that we’ve relied on for decades. We can’t stay complacent if we care about the future of the human race. Something needs to be done!
We should be focusing on the alternatives, such as energy derived from the wind, sun, and the water. This is due to two important factors. The first is that these three things produce clean energy, making them perfect as an alternative. By using wind, sun, and water energy, the environment will not be harmed in any way. Secondly, these alternative sources of energy are highly renewable. We may be worrying about running out of natural gas, but we’ll never have to worry about running out of the wind, sun, or water! The fact that all three of these things are abundant in nature makes them highly accessible as well. Clearly, this is the direction that we should be heading in.
If we continue to stick with non-renewable energy, we’ll be facing the endangerment of wildlife, rising seas, more floods, more droughts, more forest fires, worse storms, more heat-related illnesses, and economic loss. However, if we switch over to clean, renewable energy, we’ll have a beautiful environment devoid of multiple disasters. The only true struggle this alternative faces is adoption rate. It will be hard to switch everyone over to renewable energy, but it is something that needs to be done.
But more people need a wake up call. We’re continuing to head toward our own demise by using the same types of energy over and over again. Some people may scoff when they read this, saying that I’m preaching doom and gloom, but the reality of this situation is that it really can harm us. The sooner that people start to realize this simple fact, the faster we can head toward a more sustainable future.

-- Anthony Vigna

Saving New Jersey Is Up to All of Us

Dear editor:

My name is Colin English and I am a graduating senior of the Environmental Studies program of Ramapo College of New Jersey.

At my college I am enrolled in a class named Environmental Journalism that is designed to develop the skills necessary to investigate and participate in how environmental issues are covered through various mediums and medias. We were encouraged to read Joe Tyrrell's article entitled "Global Warming Experts Paint a Bleak Picture of N.J.'s Future" (Nov. 30, 2011) and write our thoughts in regards to climate change and sustainability topics.

I would like to engage a discussion about media coverage of environmental issues and  corresponding issues. In your article, you mention several naturally occurring trends, events, and circumstances within New Jersey that will worsen over time in part by human activities and influences. The phenomena included in your listing, namely large weather events, flooding, air pollutant accumulation, and significant risk to agricultural processes, still do not fully encapsulate the dangers posed to New Jersey, nor do they explore the interrelated nature of social, ecological, and economic systems in the region.

Nearly three years after this article was published, super-storms such as Hurricane Sandy have devastated dozens of ecologically ignorant communities and dilapidated infrastructural systems, the 2013-2014 winter season has proven one of the worst in decades, the state has one of the highest amounts of Superfund sites, the Federally recognized areas of extreme environmental hazard and contamination, and almost all levels of media, the government, and the public lack a full understanding of how New Jersey is truly threatened.

Through the quotes you provide in your article, it is apparent that occasionally there is a bi-partisan acknowledgement that both the scientific community has prolifically exposed the hazards posed by our continued socio-economic attitudes and behaviors, as well as the general awareness that any meaningful effort to remove the barriers to action is continually ignored by our decision makers and leaders. The opinion of the politicians you quote is that with greater international involvement and an integrated enviro-economic venture that a gradual transition will suffice. As many before me have declared, the type and scale of action that your article alludes to supporting is not enough for the situation at hand. Cap and Trade, the buying and selling of pollutants, will not accomplish anything other than the widespread allowance of a broken system to continue.

The world cannot wait for a gradual transition; the communities of the Jersey Shore should not be told to rebuild using the same methodologies and locations that are susceptible to future, worsening hurricanes; the media should not endorse half-hearted attempts at bandaging the status-quo of perpetual ignorance; all members of civil society, all levels of government, and all people should grab a true stake in their future by caring about why beach communities will continually be razed by super-storm after super-storm, how media leads citizens astray by paying attention to all of the wrong things, and most of all, how each person has the responsibility and obligation to do better and be better.

I urge you to use the empathic nature of humanity to understand our interconnectedness to each other in New Jersey, as well as to the natural systems we intrinsically depend on. I implore you to take your responsibility to these communities and to yourselves seriously enough to make a difference that is tangible, impactful, and something you can be proud of.

-- Colin English

Climate Change Affects Us All

Dear Editor:

Whether anyone likes it or not, climate change has become the issue of the 21st century. Environmentalists are highlighting problems that most politicians simply do not want to address. Doomsday groups and fossil fuel lobbies are spreading fear and doubt about the state of the planet at large.

As an aspiring environmentalist, hearing how crippled the environmental movement has become hurts me. Yes, there are groups out there fighting for the cause, but I feel that their efforts are too disjointed, not unified. In short, I find them disappointing.

Climate change should not be a partisan issue. It should not be a problem shunted onto the lower class, as is the case with environmental justice. Climate change affects everyone, but that does not mean that everyone has heard about it, much less gets a chance to contribute to the global conversation.

As the environmental movement seeks to move forward, one of its biggest challenges, in my mind, is to keep from leaving anyone behind. The indigenous tribes, the Muslims, the oil barons, the Gypsies, the loggers—everyone must be involved in the fight to save Earth’s future. The net must be cast as far as possible in order to haul out the biggest possible catch.

-- Tiffany Liang

Permaculture: Are We Ready for this Revolution?

By Anthony Vigna

Outspoken permaculture enthusiast Andrew Faust told Ramapo College students recently about an interesting initiative for the world to take on: he wants us to fill our cities and buildings with plants. Granted, I say that in an overly simplistic manner, but that’s essentially what it does. After all, permaculture as a term basically means permanent agriculture. While it sounds a little ridiculous at first, Faust’s ideals do have a purpose. They have the potential to revolutionize our way of living and offer a positive effect on world sustainability.

Faust argues that we should take on an urban permaculture movement because the way we currently live is unsustainable, and I have to agree with that. We live in a society that is very linear in nature. We extract materials from the Earth, create something in a producible form, distribute it around the world, consume the end product, and then dispose of it when we are done. In this model, we are producing things that cannot be reused, as the disposal portion is the end of the line. By following this model, we are being wasteful and harming our world’s sustainability. The only way to fix this model would be to make it so that it is cyclical. So, once we remove disposing and limit extraction, you’ll have a cyclical model that produces, distributes, consumes, and produces once more.

Of course, doing something like this is easier said than done. But, one of the most viable options to support the cyclical model is the urban permaculture movement. As I stated previously, permaculture is about planting around our buildings in order to sustain human life. Not only that, but it’s also about placing it in the right spots, as you have to keep in mind where the sun will be and where the wind will blow. By planting things in a specific way, any garden could transform in such a way that produces more than it consumes. For example, by adding permaculture to the roof of a building that houses solar panels, those panels will be a lot more effective at what they do thanks to the plants around it. This is an example of how permaculture could give energy to a building in a practical setting.

While I love this idea, I have one major criticism of this initiative: it’s way too drastic. Sure, it’s very practical and will help sustain the world in a better way, but it will be hard to convince cities around the world that we should start adding plants to all of their buildings. During the conference, Faust said that implementation of the urban permaculture movement will be applied one step at a time. He believes that if important areas of major cities start doing it, then others will follow suit. If it is that easy, then I’ll fully embrace Faust’s ideals. Yet, for now, it seems that the permaculture movement has barely dented our current way of living, so I shall remain skeptical of its implementation for the time being.

What’s in Our Water?

By Kyle Van Dyke

The Ford Motor Company, an American multinational automaker, has some shallowly buried liabilities hidden in the hills of Northern New Jersey and Rockland County, New York.

The Bergen Record was the first newspaper to document the story of the company's egregious behavior in detail and reveal it to the public in its "Toxic Legacy" series. This reporting describes how Ford Motor Company is responsible for the dumping of millions of gallons of toxic paint sludge into the hills of Ringwood and surrounding areas, thereby endangering public health and the water supply that serves more than 2 million people with arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals.

With some of the paint sludge removed on orders from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, residents may be inclined to sit back and say a “job well done.” However, this is exactly the same tone taken decades ago by political and EPA officials who betrayed the public's trust by leading them to believe all of the toxic material had been removed. In fact, all of the material had not been removed, and the Toxic Legacy series helped force the EPA to reconsider its handling of the toxic site.

The Ringwood Mines Superfund Site is the only site in the history of the Superfund program to have been re-listed back into the pool of toxic sites scheduled to receive monies or orders to companies for cleanup from the federally-funded Superfund program. The lesson learned by the Ramapough people in Mahwah and Ringwood, the native American peoples traumatically affected by Ford's illegal dumping, is that they can't even trust the people whose jobs it is to help them. This is a lesson the rest of the citizens of New Jersey ought to take seriously.

Toxic paint sludge still remains dangerously close to water sources today. In some cases the toxic paint sludge is actually in the streams in Hillburn, NY just upstream of Mahwah, meaning that the water is currently being contaminated. Citizen activists, like Ramapo College adjunct professor Chuck Stead, have been pivotal in the Ramapoughs' negotiations with the EPA and Ford Motor Company as well as documenting paint sludge dump sites with the help of Ramapo students.

Officials maintain that federal and state regulations of drinking water are being met or exceeded, but should we trust them?

Ford submitted a $46.7 million plan to the EPA last year for the dump site in Ringwood that did not give priority to removing the toxic materials and contaminated soils, as it showed its intent to remove soil from one site, possibly remove some of it from another, and to cap the third site. The public resoundingly said “no” to the plan, because “capping the waste in place would not necessarily prevent future contamination in the soil or in the water supply,” according to the Bergen Record. Given the Ramapoughs' previous experience with the EPA, I am not surprised residents will not settle for anything less than total removal of the material.

It seems that the only entities that can be trusted as sharing Northern New Jersey's long-term human interests are ourselves. Citizen activism, as demonstrated by professors like Chuck Stead, and dedicated reporters like Jan Barry, seem to be the only defense the public has against its own destruction at the hands of corporations and governments.

So, how do you feel about our water?

Water, Waste and What We Drink

By Jonathan Mallon

Water is one of Earth’s most important resources.  It helps sustain life on our planet by keeping plants and animals healthy, aiding the overall ecology of Earth, and providing the places civilizations built their legacies on.  Then stories about water pollution were revealed, such as the Ford car company’s dumping in New Jersey and the more recent situation with the chemical pollution of a river in West Virginia.  It’s enough to question whether we really know (and maybe even care) about how dangerous polluting bodies of water really are.

A series of articles on the impact of Ford’s pollution in New Jersey was covered in the state’s local newspaper that covers North Jersey, The Record (and its website), entitled “Toxic Legacy.”  One news story within that series talked about the pollution affecting the Ramapo River, even though water company officials said that the water downstream “meets or exceeds federal standards in all required tests for more than 90 chemicals and pathogens.” 

A more recent article by Robert Johnson of covered an angle to the recent chemical spill in West Virginia’s Elk River, where a former coal miner named Joe Stanley explained that his industry was responsible for polluting the water for many years before the incident.  Stanley said that the chemical that was recently spilled into the river “was just one of the chemicals we were told was highly toxic but that we dumped into old mine shafts and slurry ponds, and it’s been seeping into the groundwater for years.”

It may be even worse in the developing countries, according to an article about water pollution on the environment section of the National Geographic website.  In the page’s “fast facts” section, it said that “70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters, polluting the usable water supply” in those countries. 

A web page on water on the EPA website explained that polluted water was overall unsafe for consumption and other uses.  The web page stated that living organisms in the polluted water could either die from the pollution, or absorb some of it and become dangerous to consume as well.  However, according to the web page, there are regulations in place that help keep the waste clean enough so that people can safely use the water for activities.

Despite this (and along with other movements and methods for cleaning and keeping local waterways clean), it shows ignorance in the actions of the polluters, whether it be an accidental spill or a deliberate decision to trash.  No matter where it is, whether it’s a river, ocean, or underground aquifer, water must receive stricter protection.  It’s not enough that we treat and filter the water we find, as who knows what may remain even after it is treated.

Water is something that, in the end, must be taken more seriously in a wider environmental context.

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