Sunday, March 2, 2014

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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