Friday, May 29, 2009

Cleaning Up the Raritan River

The Raritan River is New Jersey's largest river that is entirely contained in the state. Still, it does not get the attention of the Hudson or the Passaic rivers when it comes to pollution and cleanup.

There are 1,100 square-miles of rivulets and streams that spill into the Raritan. The river's source is Budd Lake in the more rural northwestern part of the state. Its path through the state takes it through 100 municipalities and seven counties to an industrial end in Middlesex County.

The Star Ledger reported on a recent symposium dedicated to the Raritan that plans to address on an annual basis the toxic cleanup and needed public access points for the Raritan River.

The Edison Wetlands Association, co-sponsored the event along with Rutgers University's Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

They discussed the fate of this waterway which was nicknamed "the Queen of Rivers" two centuries ago by poet John Davis, but whose estuary in Middlesex County goes today by the name "Valley of the Dumps." It was a sad turn for the river that gave refuge to General GeorgeWashington during the Revolutionary War to make the list as the country's 14th most-polluted river in the country in 1994.

Executive director of the Edison Wetlands Association,
Robert Spiegel, examines a dead turtle found
along a polluted stretch of the Raritan River in Edison.

The 12 miles of the lower Raritan River (New Brunswick and south) is the worst section. This area has ten Superfund sites either on the river or in places that drain into it.

The river also touches on 16 species on the state endangered list, such as bald eagles, rare butterflies and a type of mussel known as tidewater mucket.

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