A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Friday, August 31, 2012

History: Raritan Bay Pollution Symposium, Keyport (1953)

The 5 Mar 1953 edition of The Matawan Journal covered a Raritan Bay pollution symposium held at Keyport Borough Hall on 27 Feb 1953. The front page article was titled Mayor Scholer Protests Sewer Plan: Union Beach Officials Charge State Board, Legislature Knew Pollution Cause.

Government officials from Keansburg, Keyport, Union Beach, Matawan Borough, Matawan Township, Perth Amboy and South Amboy, as well as local industry representatives, gathered at a symposium in Keyport convened by Keyport Mayor Herbert R Rothenberg to discuss the growing problem of the pollution of Raritan Bay. Of particular concern to those gathered was the pitiful state of the the bay's shellfish industry, which was being put out of business by pollution caused by the dumping of industrial wastes and sewage effluent into the Hudson, Passaic, and Raritan rivers and the Raritan Bay itself.

Experts and state authorities came to the meeting to advocate for a new sewer treatment system that would heavily treat local sewage with chlorine then pump the processed sewage into the bay a full two miles off Laurence Harbor. In several years the system promised to remove water pollution from the waters around the Amboys and begin to bring back the shellfish industry.

The symposium was startled when Union Beach representatives in attendance refused to accept the assurances of NJ state health officials and legislators that the outflow from the proposed Raritan Valley Trunk Sewer would not contaminate the bay. Instead of going along with the proposal, the Union Beach officials accused the state of long turning a blind eye to influential polluters and leaving a real mess.

The NJ Public Health Service noted that fecal coliform bacteria levels in the Amboy channel were stable between 1915 and 1941 tests at 80 per 100 mm, but ten years later the level was 20 times higher. Exacerbating the problem was the faulty plant run by the Passaic Valley Sewer Commission. He thought those levels would improve with the construction of new treatment plants at Hunt's Point, Owl's Head, and Rockaway in New York City and a new plant at Linden-Elizabeth in New Jersey.

A Rutgers University expert said voluminous samples were taken of the waters of the Raritan Bay in 1950 and, except for the high values in the Amboy channel, the bay seemed to be in good condition. In an apparent reference to the nascent pharmaceutical industry along the Raritan River, the Rutgers expert asserted that the manufacture of certain drugs had been the primary cause of the sharp increase at the Amboy Channel.

The Rutgers expert admitted that the proposed plant would not meet state requirements for dissolved oxygen content but thought that the bay could deal with it naturally. ". . . the discharge would not be 'crystal clear water fit to drink' but felt the bay's capacity of self-purification would dispense all offensive matter a few hundred yards from the nozzles and the intense chlorination at the South Amboy chlorination plant." He also noted that 2/3rds of bay pollution came from industrial sources, not sewage.

It was here Mayor Scholer intervened to protest there wasn't a "decent disposal plant in the State of New Jersey" and he did not see why people living in towns along the bay had to be subjected to the gamble that the trunk sewer treatment plant would properly handle all the sewerage and wastes of the Raritan Valley due for dumping in bay water. He wanted to know why the Raritan Valley Sewerage Authority was not called the "sewerage dumping authority."


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