"Polluted Passaic River Suffers Latest in History of Setbacks"

Efforts to remove 17 miles of dioxin-laced muck contaminating New Jersey's Passaic River seem to have failed.

"Washington Irving praised it in 1806 for its purity and gentle current, but by 1956 it had deteriorated into what poet William Carlos Williams called 'the vilest swillhole in Christendom.'

The Passaic River provided food to the Lenape, sweet hay to Dutch settlers and drinking water to the region. Its Great Falls powered factories in Paterson, giving life to the Industrial Revolution. The river served as a playground for children in the summer and a wildlife haven for naturalists.

In return, humans have used the Passaic as an open sewer, a dumping ground for factory waste, old tires, even corpses. Fertilizers have choked the water with algae, depleting oxygen levels and killing fish. The Passaic is so polluted it once caught fire. It has been a Superfund site for nearly 30 years.

We took sustenance, power and refreshment from the Passaic River. In return, we gave it dioxin, one of the most toxic wastes known to man."

James M. O'Neill and Scott Fallon report for the Bergen Record October 14, 2012.

Source: Bergen Record, 10/15/2012