Primary Source List Assignment
- “High Levels of Fecal Bacteria Found in Lower Raritan at 2nd Street Park in Perth Amboy”
Online newspaper article from 2019
This source is important because it provides information that the lower Raritan River (where the Raritan Yacht Club is located) is contaminated with fecal bacteria. This is also concerning because a lot of people actually utilize this area for sailing (as participants of the Club) as well as for other activities such as fishing and wading. This fecal bacteria can lead to other illnesses and sicknesses for humans if exposed.
2. “Community Activists Submit Recall Notice of Mayor Wilda Diaz”
Online newspaper article from 2019
This source is important because it provides information regarding the community activism that I am looking for. Although this concerns water within the Perth Amboy’s tap system (and not about the Raritan River itself, like in the previous source), it is incredibly important because it expresses the vocal community activists who were concerned about their contaminated drinking water and even petitioned to recall their Mayor (at the time).
3. “Perth Amboy to Upgrade Sewer System; Agreement Reached with the EPA to Address Violations of the Clean Water Act Affecting the Raritan River and the Arthur Kill (NJ)
Document from 2012
This is another source that is relevant to my research efforts. Although this in regard to a faulty sewer system that results in the advent of wastewater straight into the Raritan River, it is significant to learn that that the City of Perth Amboy was held accountable by the federal government; it is the EPA in this case. I wanted to use this event and study the contributing factors as to how Perth Amboy and its system appeared on the radar of the EPA in the first place (if community activism had any role in escalating this issue to the federal government). Also, this sewer system could also be responsible for the presence of the fecal bacteria in the Raritan River.
4. “City of Perth Amboy Minutes: Proceedings of the Council: August 12, 2019”
Was found online on the Perth Amboy’s government website (dated in 2019)
Although there is only minor citation within these minutes that is relevant to my research, I would like to use it anyway. These City Council meeting minutes from August 12, 2019 feature the presence of a community activist who, at the time, was very persistent in advocating for better drinking water for Perth Amboy residents. She was also one of the people who tried to lead recall efforts of former Mayor Wilda Diaz. Within these minutes under the section “Public Portion,” activist Sharon Hubberman demands more government transparency in its handling of the contaminated drinking water. She mentions a specific dollar amount $200 million as she demands to know what “we did with it.” I want to also look into whatever this $200 million is and see if the government was privy to public pressure from community activists to do better and provide clean water.
5. Facebook: “Clean Water Now Perth Amboy”
Group was founded on June 30, 2019 and has 11 members (including myself)
Screenshots of some key posts from activists:
This provides evidence that there was community activism surrounding the contaminated water issue that Perth Amboy residents experienced in 2019. I do want to poke around and later contact the leaders of this Facebook group for potentially an interview. Also, the leader of this group appears to be Sharon Hubberman, who has appeared in the City Council meeting minutes as well as the petition to recall Mayor Diaz.
Primary Source Analysis
The selected source that will undergo analysis here is the online newspaper article, “Community Activists Submit Recall Notice of Mayor Wilda Diaz,” that was published in The Amboy Guardian on June 21, 2019 (although a mentioned press release date was June 5, 2019). It is an article that reports on the dissatisfaction some vocal Perth Amboy residents are expressing upon city notice of “dangerous contaminants in their drinking water” such as 1-4 Dioxane. Three mentioned community activists Sharon Hubberman, Maria Rodriguez, and Jesus Varela claim that clean water is fundamental to livelihood and personally hold Mayor Wilda Diaz responsible. They even submitted their recall notice to the City of Perth Amboy Clerk’s Office. This is a very significant source to my research because not only does it confirm that there was a negative community response to the posed environmental issue of contaminated drinking water, that community response morphed to become a very passionate and persistent force that seeks to hold government officials accountable for endangering the welfare of the people.
The comparison that this article made about Perth Amboy, NJ to Flint, Michigan has an immediate shock effect as Flint is a well-known and heavily documented environmental injustice issue. Thus, to make such a comparison is to equate Perth Amboy’s drinking water issues with that of Flint and its magnitude. The article states, “Similar to a notice sent to Flint, Michigan, residents which faced a water crisis, Perth Amboy residents received a notice that TTHMS are in their drinking water. Further at a presentation conducted by the EPA at the City Hall Council Chambers on May 22, residents were informed that three of the City’s water wells have been contaminated by plumes of 1-4 Dioxane.” In addition to the inclusion of the bold comparison of Perth Amboy and Flint, this article also reveals that there were additional contaminants to the Perth Amboy drinking water than mentioned in the initial notice that residents received. This arguably justifies the shock and horror these three community activists express. It also mentioned the presence and intervention of the EPA, which highlights the magnitude of the Perth Amboy water issue.
An included quote from community activist and Perth Amboy resident Sharon Hubberman also supports the relevance of this primary source. In this article, she was noted to state, “‘Listening to this news at our last council meeting was not only disconcerting, but it troubles me deeply that our residents have been exposed to such dangerous toxins in our drinking water. Clean water is a fundamental right.” This quote is important as it reveals the personal investment Hubberman has in this issue since she does reside in this city. Furthermore, according to the time stamp of this article and the one of the Facebook group Clean Water Now Perth Amboy, Hubberman was very concerned about these discoveries and the city’s response that she proceeded to create that Facebook group and amplify the community activism.
There is also another quote that strengthens the relevancy and implications of this source. As previously noted, there were other named community activists who were invested in recalling Mayor Wilda Diaz. In this article, fellow activist Maria Rodriguez was quoted, “Someone has to watch out for us…There is no transparency regarding our drinking water because the City does not hold monthly public meetings regarding our water.” As one can see, Rodriguez seeks more government transparency regarding this water issue. As her second claim concerning the lack of monthly public meetings has to be further researched, I can say that there was a lack of water discussion in the meeting minutes I had looked at besides the one comment that Hubberman had made.
Keywords: Water, Toxics, Community