Rabiya Khan: Image Analysis
SoilSafe acquired a prominent plot of land in 2014, surrounded by the Rahway river from three sides. The area is called the ‘Rahway Arch’ since the curve of the river creates geography similar to a peninsula. This land is sensitive to contamination because of its extremely close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and heavily populated places like New York City and Staten Island. The Metro12 recycling facility overcame multiple lawsuits concerning the potentially dangerous environmental impact to nearby residents and wildlife. Despite the risk, Metro12 comes off as an environmentally efficient facility. The photo was taken directly from the SoilSafe project website and has clear intentions of minimizing the dangerous process of inefficient soil contamination cleanup.
The image produced by SoilSafe is aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that the location is meant to store extremely toxic waste such as heavy metals. Heavy metals are a persistent contaminant since they degrade very slowly and can be displaced relatively easily. The waste will not be moved to a safer location, in fact more contaminated soil will be brought from other locations to be layered and eventually capped by the company. In reality, the result of this process will leave giant mounds of dirty soil littering the once beautiful landscape displayed in the image. This moment was captured before the land was disfigured. This photo was intended to convince curious residents and environmentalists that the project is some small scale construction contrary to the limited view.
The foreground misleads the viewers into perceiving the project as intimate and noninvasive. The focal point of the image would be the bright yellow bulldozer on the unaltered land. Other than the few vehicles, there is no activity or people in sight. This makes the area look unused and abandoned. The boundaries of the property are unclear from the angle of the image, this choice of perspective was intentional. There is no way of telling how much land the company acquired and how much foreign soil is being transferred here. The lack of activity portrays this area as an empty lot, but it could have been used for recreational rather than industrial purposes. The website did not inform the readers of the scale or risks of the project, we assume from the photos, language, and imagery that the intentions are to preserve the environment. In fact, the altercations will leave Rahway Arch with more contaminated wastes on valuable and sensitive property.
A recycling facility dealing with contaminated soil is expected to take extra precautions when it comes to environmental protection. Rahway river is partially visible, the banks will rise after rainfall while increasing its surface area. It may carry contamination further than the Rahway Arch. The hazardous waste will not only spread to nearby communities, but also leak into the ocean where it will be impossible to control. The implications are not apparent from this little slice of undeveloped land in the photo. The proximity of the river is too close for comfort. New York City is the epitome of progress and innovation, so the looming buildings are meant to be synonymous with this project. Bayonne bridge, a monumental landmark, is at the center of this image. It is another example of progress and achievement since it is one of the largest steel bridges in the world. The bridge connects the city to New Jersey, it is a technology that commuters utilize everyday. The river physically separates the seemingly interconnected geography, it also removes the project from these locations creating the illusion that the two cannot affect each other. The mountains of capped soil will be an eyesore and a bleak reminder to residents of the environmental hazard that will exist indefinitely in their neighborhood.
Commuters, passerbys, and those on airplanes can visualise the borders of New Jersey by identifying the monumental white containers that are infamous in Carteret township. Contaminated waste storage tanks are concentrated in Carteret, so their persistent existence is underrepresented in this photo. The tankers are off to the side and out of focus, Metro12 uses this photo to alter the perception that the project is isolated from these tanks. The waste in question is nowhere to be seen and neither are the mounds of dirt that will render this field unusable for decades. Hidden behind the foliage beyond the river are just a few of the numerous tanks that will now be accompanied by a more dangerous short term solution that Metro12 is introducing to this community. New Jersey seems to constantly bear the environmental burdens for its neighbors on the other side of the river.
Residents visiting the Metro12 website for clarity will be left with an altered understanding of the intentions of the recycling project. The photo implies that the plot is unusable and abandoned so no one will miss it once it’s developed. Carteret is home to commuters who frequent New York almost daily. The aesthetically pleasing location will soon be another storage location for the seemingly endless waste in the tri-state area. The waste is not in the photo at all, instead the viewers see the land before its destruction, creating a false narrative that the end result will preserve the natural topography. The amazing view that this photo reveals is not visible to residents of Carteret, they are not allowed near this site. Years before the acquisition, the EPA declared this area an environmental hazard. Now that Metro12 has brought more contamination here, the community will be denied access to this natural asset indefinitely. The fact that the company portrays the facility as environmentally friendly is alarming and this image proves that it is trying to minimize the issues raised from prior lawsuits. This misrepresentation is an act of environmental injustice since the community at risk is not properly informed about the intentions, risks and future of the waste storage project.