You Gotta Fight, For Your Right, For Clean Water:
How the Contaminated Passaic River in Newark, New Jersey Has Caused Wildlife and Low-Income Minorities to Fight for Clean Water and a Healthy Lifestyle

by Jacob Rappaport

Site Description:

My project is focusing on the Essex County Riverfront Park, the park sits on 1-3 Brill Street in Newark, New Jersey. I will be focusing on present day problems that are affecting the wildlife along with the people who like to fish and even those who need the fish to maintain a business.  Riverfront Park is a part of the newly reformed area of land that sits along the Passaic River. Many different kinds of people visit this park to fish for fun or just walk along the water, but the contamination that flows through the river keeps people on their toes at all times.

Author Biography:

As the author of this paper I was originally drawn to the topic of fishing in Newark because I have been affected by the contaminated water that flows through Newark. In my hometown of Blackwood, New Jersey I had spent my whole life fishing in clean bodies of water, but when I moved to Newark to start college, my fishing experiences had changed Drastically. It’s easy for me to drive home and fish easily and free, but for the people of Newark, fishing is more of a hassle than anything else. Fishing is for everyone, It shouldn’t be a privilege for people to fish in clean water, and those reasons explain why I was drawn to this topic. 

Final Report:

Project Details Lower Passaic River Remediation

Passaic River


One of the many amazing things about fishing is that it can be done in about any body of water. You can fish for either salt water fish, or fresh water fish, and you can fish in something as small as a half-mile long creek, or a body of water as big as the Pacific Ocean. Before moving to Newark, New Jersey in the Fall of 2017 for my first year at NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology), I had spent my whole life stuck in the small town of Blackwood, New Jersey, located 15 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I was used to fishing in lakes and ponds that were clean 95% of the time, and if I was fishing in dirty water, it was usually for a reason. Before I came up to Newark, I did not really know what it was like to have a tough time catching fish or having to worry about the fish that I was catching. Once I started fishing at spots in Newark, specifically Branch Brook Park and the Passaic River, I realized how much I was taking fishing for granted.

The first time I ever fished in the Passaic River was one of the first days of my freshmen year. I went out excited to fish, hoping to catch something different than a largemouth bass. I remember having a couple new lures that I was going to try out as well. When I walked up to the Passaic, I did not see what I was expecting to see. The water was murky with an abundance of litter floating along the surface, and along the shore there was a green slop that was running along the current of the river. Something that really stuck out to me was just how dark the water was. If you were to put your foot in the water, you would not be able to see it. I fished for about three hours that day, and walked away with zero bites, and two lost lures. That day made me wonder about the citizens of Newark and the wildlife and how they were affected by the horrible conditions throughout the Passaic River.

The Passaic River is known as one of the largest waterways in New Jersey. It is also known as one of the dirtiest waterways in all of America. When you are driving over the river you can smell “the stench of its murky waters”1. I came to the realization that this was an everyday problem for people that fished on the Passaic River all the time. I started to become more aware of the problems that filled the river that not only affected the wildlife, but the people of Newark as well, especially the low-income minority citizens located within the Ironbound District of Newark.

The Ironbound District of Newark runs alongside the South End of the Passaic River, and is notorious for its large industrial factories that helped build Newark into the blue-collar city it is today. Unlike myself, a white 22-year-old male who still lives with his parents when he is not at school, the people who live in the Ironbound must work hard for everything they have, because we have seen how minority groups have been unequally treated throughout history. The pollution that flows through the Passaic River has caused harm to both the wildlife and the low-income minority citizens of Newark, and their lack of resources/social standing has made it hard for them to make a substantial difference in the cleanup process.

Over the course of this paper, it is important to explain the history of the Passaic River to help explain how the river has turned into the toxic hot bed that we see today. The history of the river will include the companies like the Diamond Alkali Superfund site that dumped into the Passaic River, and the long-lasting problems that their dumping has caused. Another topic I will emphasize throughout this paper is the wildlife that lives within the Passaic River and how they affect fishing, both commercially and leisurely. The Ironbound community has made efforts to clean up the river, but their lack of resources has not allowed them to make the changes they genuinely want to make. Ironbound Voices is a digital repository of stories throughout the history of Newark, and in there is a snippet calling for the cleanup of toxic waste dated 1986, showing the cleanup of the Passaic River has been needed for decades. Finally, the politics surrounding the cleanup of the Passaic River raise a lot of questions that will be answered in this paper, like why Newark has allowed to the Passaic River to be contaminated for so long, and why past cleanup attempts have failed. If the City Officials have been aware of the dangers that come with the Passaic River, then why is not cleaning it up on the top of everyone’s priority list? Any questions you may have at this point in the paper will hopefully be answered and explained throughout this paper.  For a brief description of this project, click on the video story below.

Passaic River Video Story

The Passaic River 

The Passaic River is one of the largest rivers in all of New Jersey. It’s 80 miles long and runs throughout the Northern part of the state. When a river is 80 miles long, there are going to be a lot of different areas that run along the river. The Passaic River runs through cities like Newark, suburbs like Harrison and Kearny, old colonial towns, and even horse country. The main attraction on the Passaic River is Paterson Great Falls. Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is home to one of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls.2 This waterfall is what makes the Passaic River the tale of two rivers. The current in the Passaic River flows from North to South, and ends by flowing into the Newark Bay, and in 1791 Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton supported a plan to harness the falls to run factories, and this began the river’s degradation.3 Over the hundreds of years since then, the water on the second half of The Great Falls (South End), has always been more contaminated than the water within the first half (North End) of the Passaic River. It’s amazing to think about the fact that the Passaic River has been degrading since 1971 and yet the problems that they saw way back then are still here today in 2021. 

Paterson Great Falls, Paterson, New Jersey  

As time went on, the river only got worse. The main contributor to the contamination of the Passaic River was the Diamond Alkali Co. located in the South End of the river just outside Newark, New Jersey.4 During the 1960’s when the site opened, the Vietnam War was going on, and Agent Orange was proving to be a very successful in the war. Agent Orange was a herbicide used by the United States Military to eliminate forest cover and crops from the North Vietnamese troops.5

Throughout all of this the Passaic River was still unable to get the cleanup the river deserved. The contamination throughout this river has taken such a toll on the lives of people who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this. History has shown that this river has been manipulated time and time again, and not only is the river being affected, but all of the people who live near the southern end of the river suffer immensely. Newark is the hot bed for contamination in river, and every day they’re efforts are neglected because they’re low-income minority citizens that don’t have the resources to attempt a cleanup of the river themselves. The history of the Passaic River is long and crazy, the pollution that has filled this river has caused harm to both the citizens surrounding the river, and the wildlife that lives within it.

Social Injustices and Hardships Created by the Passaic River

The Passaic River’s lower reach is a 17 mile stretch that ranges from Dundee Dam in Clifton, NJ, to the Newark Bay, and is by far, the most polluted section of the river.6 The citizens of Newark that live alongside this section of the Passaic, specifically the Ironbound, are faced with problems every single day because of the poor condition that the river has been in for so long. The citizens of the Ironbound are close-knit communities that are made up of minority groups that work hard and honest jobs to provide a living for themselves and their families.

Fishing at the South End of the Passaic River has always been extremely popular, and has been used for both business and leisure.7 The problem has and never will be about the act of fishing, it’s not illegal to fish in the Passaic River, but the contamination that has filled this specific part of the river has made it extremely hard and dangerous to fish. One of the main problems that surround the Passaic River and the people who fish there is that not many people are aware of the severity of the contaminated water and the wildlife that use the river as their habitat.

Joanna Burger ran a data analysis on the subject of awareness of the hazards within the Passaic River by ethnicity. Burger and her associates broke the analysis down into three different ethnic groups, White, Black, and Hispanic.8 90 percent of the people that were interviewed were male and 55 percent classified as white, 20 percent identified as Hispanic, and 17 percent of the interviewees were black. Burger and company asked other demographic questions like what language they were most comfortable reading, (83 percent said English, 8 percent Spanish, and 6 percent said both English and Spanish).9 The median household income for the people that were interviewed was between $25,000-$34,999, while eighteen percent of the sample’s income was below $15,000, and 11 percent said their household income was over $75,00010.

Within the first few pages of Joanna Burger’s analysis, a theme was already starting to occur, there were more white interviewers than any other ethnic group included, most of the people preferred to read in English, and there was a group of people that were outliers when it came to average household income, meaning that group of people was making way more or less than the median income, and in this specific case the group of outliers was making more money. This section of Burger’s analysis shows that the black and Hispanic populations had less people interviewed for this project, they were having to live the “American lifestyle” by having to learn to read English writing, and were making less money than the group of white people.

In a data analysis that I ran myself, it became clear that the data I was given was very comparable to the data that Joanna Burger had gathered in her data analysis. Both analyses showed that black and Hispanic people were the minority and that they had a lower average income than the white population that lives in the Ironbound District of Newark.11 One of the main differences between both of our analysis’ is that Joanna Burger’s data shows that the majority of the people they interviewed felt most comfortable reading in English, while my ACS report shows that main language spoken at home is Spanish.12 A conclusion that I have come to is that minority citizens might be scared to give their honest answers because people might look at them differently. The ACS report of the US Census shows that of the 38,904 people included, 16,363 people speak Spanish at home compared to the 7,363 that answered for English as their primary language at home.13 The low-income minority groups throughout the Ironbound District were suffering and continue to suffer due to the contamination that flows through the South End of the Passaic River, and the fact that they don’t have the power in numbers to make a change themselves, the cleanup process doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon.

Social Impact on Cleanup of the Passaic River

Passaic River Contamination via

There have been countless attempts to clean up the South End of the Passaic River. For the citizens that are aware of the contamination that fills the river, cleaning up the river has been a top priority for decades. After Diamond Alkali Co. Spent years dumping Agent Orange herbicide into the river, people started to realize that the water and soil throughout the river was taking its toll, and it was not going to get any better on its own.

As previously stated, the citizens of Newark struggled to come up with the resources necessary to clean up the river themselves so the both the citizens and the river continued to suffer. Groups have been created like the Sierra Club of New Jersey, that take pride in fighting for the citizens and wildlife that might don’t have the opportunity to fight for themselves. In an article on, club Director Jeff Tittel stated that “The EPA needs to do their job and protect the communities from this contamination. This contamination has been posing risks to both human health, marine ecosystem, and the community for far too long.”14 Something that is really cool about the Sierra Club is that they used to be partnered with the Citizens Advisory Group (CAD) who work for the citizens and constantly fight for full removal of the contamination and try and raise awareness for better public health and a better environment in general.15

Efforts like this make all the difference in the world for the people that are directly affected by the Passaic River every day. Throughout this paper the problem has been that the low-income minority citizen of Newark hasn’t been able to do enough to make a massive change in the cleanup effort of the Passaic River, but these organizations like CAD and the Sierra club are a voice for the people that don’t have one.

There have been other efforts made to try and make the Passaic River cleaner and more appealing to everyone, whether that’s the citizens of Newark, Fishermen who are coming into to the city, or just people driving past the city along one of the many major highways like the New Jersey Turnpike or McCarter Highway which runs right through the heart of the Ironbound and parallel to the Passaic River. On the other hand, Major companies have gone back and forth trying to decide who’s going to pay for the cleanup.

An article came out in December of 2018 published by the Wall Street Journal titled “Agent Orange’s Other Legacy- a $12 Billion Cleanup and a Fight Over Who Pays”.16 Authors Peg Brinkley and Gretchen Morgenson explain the contamination that has overflowed the Passaic River, and that no one wants to take blame for the dumping of dioxins into the river and pay for it. Companies such as YPF SA, an Argentine state oil company who took over the original Agent Orange site in 1995, ran themselves bankrupt and said they weren’t responsible for covering the cost of the cleanup because they knew they were being backed by the U.S. bankruptcy system.17 For companies to not want to pay find a way to right their wrongs and find a way to pay for the cleanup of the river, they’re fighting each other to see who can get out of paying for the cleanup! These companies are so money hungry that they do not even realize how many lives they’d be improving, and what they would be doing for the wildlife and their ecosystems. Off the record, I firmly believe that cleaning up the Passaic River would improve every aspect of life around Newark, New Jersey, but the citizens can’t do it all by themselves, and these big companies like YPF that sit along the river need to come together and do what is right and not stop until the job is complete.

Wildlife Throughout the Passaic River  

To this point in the paper, the focus has been on the low-income minority citizens that live in the Ironbound District of Newark and how they have been negatively affected by the Passaic River for so long and why they haven’t been able to clean up the contamination. Agent Orange was introduced as well and the impact it has made on the river itself, but in my introduction, I explained my love for fishing and marine wildlife in general for being the main reason as to why I chose the Passaic River as my topic site. The wildlife throughout the South End of the Passaic River has suffered just as much, if not more than anything or anyone else that is affected by the contamination in the river.

What is so amazing about the Passaic River is that the wildlife north of the Paterson Great Falls do not have to deal with the same conditions that the wildlife on the South End have to deal with. Agent Orange, the herbicide that was introduced earlier, has always been the biggest contaminant that fills the Passaic River. Yes, we know Agent Orange is extremely dangerous, but what chemicals make it life threatening to the wildlife that live in the Passaic? A by-product of the manufacturing process to create Agent Orange was known as 2,3,7,8-TCDD, better known as dioxin, an extremely toxic chemical.18 Other chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and pesticides were also found in the sediment in the Lower Passaic River.19 Dioxin, the most harmful substance that fills the soil of the Passaic River, causes extreme damage to the ecosystem. There have been fish that have been tracked all the way down to Florida that have been affected by the dioxin throughout the South End of the river.20 Beautiful species of fish and shellfish are losing their homes and dying because of these horrendous contaminants that fill the bed of the Passaic River, and for the longest time the future of wildlife in the Passaic River was in question.

The story on the North End of the Passaic River is quite different. Companies like the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery have formed to help keep the wildlife in the Passaic River as clean and healthy as possible.21The way the fish hatchery works is a group of people go out to surrounding bodies of water, catch small, clean pike, and bring them back to let them grow so they can then dump them into the North End of the Passaic so they can swim freely and create more healthy fish for the future.22The goal is not to wash out all of the contaminated fish, but to stock the river with new fish that are going to help grow the population during bedding season, so the contaminated fish will be outnumbered. Fishing in the northern portion of the Passaic River has become much more enjoyable than fishing in the 17-mile stretches of the Lower Passaic River that is still way to contaminated to stock healthy fish. Stocking that specific section of the river would just result in the fish becoming contaminated, there is no fish stronger than the contaminants embedded at the bottom of the river, and it has been a problem for far too long.

Ron Jacobsen with Brookstock Pike

Impact made by Political Groups

The last section of this project is going to focus on the impact made by politician and their parties regarding the cleanup of the Passaic River. One of the largest impacts’ politicians have made throughout the cleanup process has been creating the Lower Passaic Urban Waters Partnership. The LPR UWFP is a group of federal and state agencies, municipalities, and community-based organizations trying to expedite the cleanup and restoration of the Lower Passaic River.23One of the amazing things about this group is that they put the communities that suffer from the Lower Passaic River first. They allow the citizens of Newark the opportunity to have their voices heard because they cannot do it on their own. The whole argument behind this paper is that the low-income minority groups that live throughout the Ironbound District of Newark continuously suffer from the Passaic River because they do not have the resources to make any substantial changes, but groups like the Lower Passaic Urban Waters Partnership gives me hope that one day the Passaic River will be fully rid of all the contaminants that we know about today.

For as good as the LPR UWFP is, we all know how sly and greedy politicians can be. New Jersey Senator Corey Booker once stated “Please understand that there should be yellow crime-scene tape around the Passaic River right now.”24 While Booker stated that, the EPA announced a cleanup plan to remove 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the waterway over the span of ten years.25Planning to run a project of this importance over ten years makes it seem like cleaning up the river isn’t the absolute top priority, yet Cory Booker is calling the Passaic River a crime scene. It seems like the politicians are doing good by recognizing the problems and dumping a bunch of money into projects to clean up the river, yet there never seems to be any progress made. After every attempted cleanup, someone in a suit and tie comes out saying” the job is not done yet” or” there are still years to go before the river will be completely restored.

Luckily for these politicians and their parties, the citizens of Newark are just happy to see some progress made, like Sal Banks, 50, a lifelong resident of Newark understands that the cleanup costs money, but also notes that the health of people and the wildlife are more important than any sum of money.26Politicians across North Jersey have helped immensely with the cleanup process of the Passaic River, but there is always more work to be done. These issues have been going on for far too long, and the people of Newark want to see these problems gone no matter what the cost, and I think the state of New Jersey and its leaders should use that as fuel to continue to clean up the river.


The home stretch, throughout this project you have learned about my own personal experiences regarding the Passaic River, a brief history of the Passaic River and its main issues, both the social injustices and hardships caused by the river, and the impact the citizens of Newark has had on the cleanup process even with the little resources they had and continue to have. The wildlife throughout the Passaic River, and the efforts that have been made to make the Passaic River a better place to live for the fish and shellfish that suffer every day, and lastly the impact politicians have made, both positively and negatively.

After analyzing general demographics like ethnic groups and how the quality of both ends of the river differ, I still stand by my original argument that the low-income minority citizens that live in the Ironbound District of Newark take the brunt of the contamination throughout the Lower End of the Passaic River because they don’t have the resources or social standing to make the necessary changes themselves. I had some doubts about this argument holding any validity, but while writing this paper I realized that the community of the Ironbound simply does not have a loud enough voice when it comes to the topic of the Passaic River. Sure, the State of New Jersey has dumped a ton of money into the cleanup process, but those white-collar individuals do not face the everyday struggle that these people face. Politicians do not have to worry about fishing for food, and then having to fear whether or not the fish is going to make you sick. The Suits also do not have to worry about breathing in the pollution that comes from all of the toxins that were dumped into the river over a half century ago, and they definitely don’t have to worry about making a home underneath the surface of the river like the groups of wildlife that do call the Passaic River home.

There is so much that still has to be done to help restore the Lower End of the Passaic River to what it was before Diamond Alkali Co. Started dumping Agent Orange during the Vietnam War in the 1960’s. It can be something as little as picking up trash alongside the river when you’re fishing or walking along a trail, or as big as joining a group that supports community efforts. This paper has shown me that there is always so much more than what meets the eye. Someone driving along the Passaic River might think the river is just a product of its environment, but in reality, the companies that dumped into the river never gave it a chance to succeed, and sadly the citizens of Newark have to bear it. I hope you learned a thing or two throughout this project because I know that going through this research has been an eye-opening experience, and I pray that I am still here to one day see the Passaic River in its full glory.


  1.  Noah Remnick and Rick Rojas “Toxic Passaic River to Get $1.38 Billion Cleanup Over 10 Years” New York Times, March 4, 2016. 
  1. Paterson Great Falls, National Parks Conservation Association. Est. 2011.
  1. Art Silverman, “The Truth About That Other Jersey Shore”, NRP Radio. November 19, 2010.
  1. Sharon Adarlo, “’Peaceful Valley’: Passaic River is Reborn in New Jersey”. Aljazeera America, May 25, 2015.
  1. Editors, “Agent Orange,” A&E Television Networks, August 2, 2011.
  1. Urban Waters Partnership, “Urban Waters and the Passaic River/Newark (New Jersey), United States Environmental Protection Agency. December 20, 2018.
  1. Joanna Burger, K. Pflugh, L. Lurig, L. Von Hagen, and S. Von Hagen. “Fishing in Urban New Jersey: Ethnicity Affects Information Sources, Perception, and Compliance.” Risk Analysis, April 19, 1999.
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
  1. ”EJScreen ACS Report 2018: Newark Ironbound” (Demographics Reports U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
  1. Quote from Jeff Tittel, Director of Sierra Club New Jersey. ” Passaic River Cleanup Announced: Toxic Nightmare Continues” Sierra Club of New Jersey, March 4, 2016.
  1. Ibid
  1. Peg Brickley and Gretchen Morgenson,” Agent Orange’s Other Legacy- a $12 Billion Cleanup and a Fight over Who Pays”, Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2018. & Regulations
  1. Ibid
  1. ” Diamond Alkali Co. Newark, NJ Cleanup Activities”. Environmental Protection Agency.
  1. Ibid
  1. Jeff Tittel,” Passaic River Cleanup Announced: Toxic Nightmare Continues” Sierra Club of New Jersey, March 4, 2016.
  1. Ron Jacobsen,” Passaic River Pike”, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, February 14, 2013
  1. Ibid
  1. Urban Waters Partnership,” Urban Waters and the Passaic River/Newark (New Jersey), EPA, Last Updated December 20, 2018
  1. Noah Remnick and Rick Rojas,” Toxic Passaic River to Get $1.38 Billion Cleanup Over 10 Years” New York Times, March 4, 2016.
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid


Primary Sources:

1: Passaic River, Long Marred by Toxic Dumping, Will Be Cleaned

Location: New York Times. LexisNexis. Published March 4, 2016.

This news article in the New York times talks about the attempted cleanup of the Passaic River, specifically an 8 mile stretch from the Newark Bay inlet to the Newark-Bellville border. This source includes the toxins that have contaminated this body of water for so long. This article gives the perspective of politicians, environmental workers,and the citizens who are affected by the Passaic River, and having that information is going to help. 

2. Metro News Briefs: New Jersey; Study Says Passaic River is Choked With Toxins

Location: New York Times. LexisNexis. Published April 7, 1998.

Although this isn’t a long article, it’s full of information that I did not have before. The biggest piece of information that I took away from this article is that the Passaic River was declared a superfund site in 1984, and the chemicals that the river is contaminated with. This information will help me connect some dots along this process of answering the topic question surrounding this whole paper. 

3. Superfund Cleanup Stirs Troubled Waters 

Location: The New York Times. Published August 13, 2012.

This news article was published by Anthony DePalma in 2012, and he writes about the problems faced when trying to clean up the superfund site that is the Passaic River. I find this article to be important because it explains the history of the superfund and then explains how extensive the cleanup process is. This article gives me an abundance of information that allows me to have knowledge about multiple aspects of this topic.


Location: Green Vitals. Published June 26, 2012 

This is a photo of a man named Tony Falcon holding a fish on the Passaic River in Paterson, New Jersey. As you can see, there is plenty of build-up on the surface of the water. Safe fishing water does not have that mucky substance that you see pictured here. This contamination is not good for the fish or the people fishing. This is just good hard picture evidence that people face everyday while fishing.

5. New Jersey Sues Three Companies For Discharging, Delaying Cleanup of Highly Toxic Dioxin in Lower Passaic River. 

Location: US States News. LexisNexis Published December 14, 2005.


This news source is from US States News, and it focuses on the states displeasure with the companies that knowingly dumped dioxin into the Passaic River. This article highlights the fishing struggles that the Passaic River poses. For over 20 years the state has advised people not to fish in the river, yet people continue to catch, and keep fish out of the Passaic River. I am using this source as a bridge towards finding out why people continue to fish these waters even though they’ve continuously been told not to. 

Primary Source Analysis:  Passaic River, Long Marred by Toxic Dumping, Will Be Cleaned

I have chosen to analyze this source for a multitude of reasons. Reported by Noah Remnick and Rick Rojas in 2016, we read about the push made to clean up the Passaic river that stretches over 80 miles throughout Northern New Jersey. Although fishing is the main focus of my paper, I think that it’s important to research the reason why fishing is so difficult throughout Newark along the Passaic River. This source is beneficial to my paper because it not only highlights the fishing problems, but Remnick and Rojas went a step further and also highlighted the efforts that were being made to solve whatever was causing the problems in the first part. 

One of the first things that stuck out to me while reading this article was a quote given by Former Mayor of Newark, Corey Booker. He stated “ the damage that has been done, the lives that have been affected, the disease that has been spread, the theft from opportunity.” Later in that interview Booker also stated that the people ‘bore the costs’ of this dangerous water. Those two quotes show me that the citizens of Newark have suffered for years over something that they didn’t take any part in. The dioxin and lead that was dumped by these sites literally left the City of Newark out to dry. The people of Newark have gone years and years without clean water, and it’s not even their fault. Cory Booker using the term ‘theft for opportunity’ really made me think about all the fishermen throughout Newark that were missing out on making a living because of how dangerous the water is. Being able to use that information throughout my paper is going to help me immensely. This article supports both the efforts being made to fix this environmental injustice and a background on why the Passaic River throughout Newark has gotten so contaminated. 

When I started this project, one of the questions I wanted to answer out of personal interest was whether or not the contamination was a result of pollution from the City of Newark, or contamination/toxins were dumped by the companies that sit along the Riverfront. After analyzing this source, I realized that it’s probably a smart idea to incorporate this aspect into my paper somehow. There is a paragraph in this article that highlights a very interesting piece of information, and it talks about the toxin created and dumped right here in Newark.  During the Vietnam War there was a herbicide created called Agent Orange. Agent Orange was used to defoliate forests in the war. This herbicide was created by Diamond Alkali Company, which sat right along the Passaic River in Newark. What was happening was the toxic sludge from Agent Orange was being drained into the river creating a ton of issues that this article highlights. 

My last piece of evidence that supports my topic focuses on the efforts made to clean up the river. People relied and still do rely on the Passaic River as a source of catching and keeping fish. The Newark Bay and Passaic River used to be great fishing spots, but when the superfund sites started dumping into the river the entire area was ruined. The quote that I am going to reference supports the clean-up of the Passaic, but also helps explain why the water crisis throughout Newark hasn’t been completely solved. Jeff Tittle, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey stated “something was better than nothing” and “the Passaic River cleanup was more about expedience than doing what’s right for the river”. I think the quote shows part of the reason as to why the river hasn’t been completely cleaned, and I took him as saying that was never really the goal. This information shows that there’s been an effort to clean up the water so people can fish freely, but not the effort that both the river and the people of Newark deserve.

Keywords: Passaic River, Newark, Dioxin, Contamination, Fishing

    Secondary Sources:

    1. Fishing in Urban New Jersey: Ethnicity Affects Information Sources, Perception, and Compliance (Kluwer Academic Publishers,1999), by Joanna Burger, et al. 

    Fishing in Urban New Jersey is a peer reviewed source that takes an in-depth look at the correlation between ethnicity and awareness of the water they’re food lives in. This source comes from a section of a journal called Risk Analysis, which highlights environmental problems. This journal entry describes the lack of knowledge that minorities have about the dangers of the water throughout Newark compared to the wealth of knowledge that white people have about the water and the fish they are fishing. This source will be useful when trying to figure out why people still continue to fish in these waters knowing the risk, consequences. 

    1. First Stage of Long-Awaited Lower Passaic River Cleanup Begins;Department of Environmental Protection Stresses Need for a Complete Cleanup of the Passaic River (Targeted News Service LLC,2012), by U.S. State News. 

    This news article was published by Targeted News Service LLC, and it describes the cleanup of the Passaic River back in 2012. This article explains the cleanup process and the reasons as to why they were trying to complete such an extensive cleanup in the first place. I plan on using this source to help cement the lack of effort that both the city and state have shown since this cleanup. It’s now 2021, and the Passaic River is still one of the most polluted rivers in the country, how does this happen, and how can we try and prevent the build-up of the pollutants that fill this water, so both the wildlife and people can live a healthy and sanitary lifestyle.  

    1. Polluted Passaic: Healing a Sick Waterway (, 2017) by Andre Malok.

    When I found this video on YouTube, I thought Andre Malok, the videographer, did a great job of showing the viewer just how much trash flows through the river. They collect 40,000 pounds of trash every month, which doesn’t even sound possible. This video is going to contribute to my paper because it just helps explain the problems that are caused when catching and eating fish. The trash on the surface makes it almost impossible to believe that any fish caught in there is safe to catch, let alone eat. The first question everyone asks when I tell them how hard it is to fish in Newark is “why?”, well this video explains exactly why.

    Image Analysis:

    Data Analysis:


    For my data analysis I am going to be continuing my research on Newark Riverfront Park and the Passaic River that flows alongside it. The environmental issue that I have been focusing on is the contamination throughout the river that affects fishing at and around Newark Riverfront Park. The troubles that the Passaic River cause have made it almost impossible to fish without catching a piece of trash or some slimy radioactive fish that could be harmful to touch, let alone take home and eat. I decided to use a half-mile buffer around my topic site because the area of Newark inside of this buffer gave very useful information moving forward in my research. The highlighted area helps explain why the people of Newark struggle at the hands of the Passaic River, and why the Passaic River is such an environmental tragedy. Newark has struggled environmentally, and the blame is placed on the citizen’s of Newark, and an argument that I have become more interested in is trying to prove that the downfall of the Passaic River isn’t at the hands of Newark and it’s citizens.

    Environmental Data Analysis:

    While analyzing the environmental data, it was quite obvious which factors were most influential on my selected buffer zone. The three most prominent indicators are Superfund Proximity, Hazardous Waste Proximity, and Wastewater Discharge. Most times, when talking about environmental problems in Newark, it’s automatically assumed that lead is what’s causing the problems. In this specific case, lead in the pipes is not the main problem. My specific area ranks in the 99th percentile nationally in Superfund Proximity, meaning that superfund sites have had a direct influence on both the Passaic River and urban area within the parameters of my buffer. This data supports my argument because the common citizen of Newark has no affect on the Superfund sites that are included in this data. The selected area also ranks in the 96th percentile nationally and in the 93rd percentile statewide in Hazardous Waste Proximity. This plays hand in hand with the Superfund Proximity data because all of the waste that came from the superfund sites is most likely going to be hazardous. This is just another environmental problem that the City of Newark and it’s people face on a day-to-day basis. The third piece of evidence that I analyzed is Wastewater in which the region ranks in the 86th percentile nationally and the 88th percentile statewide The significance of the buffer-zone really comes into play here because when you look, you can see that the Passaic River runs alongside McCarter Highway, which is probably the most busy road in Newark. Previous research has shown that a lot of the waste that hits the River comes from this exact highway, which is a huge disservice to Newark and the environment in general.

    Demographic Data Analysis:

    The demographic data that I gathered plays a huge role in my project as a whole. Until this point, finding out how this environmental problem affected the citizens of Newark had been extremely challenging, but this data shined some light on just how much this isn’t their fault. One of the main problems surrounding this whole project is how much people in Newark don’t fully know about this problem. A lot of people in my buffer zone speak Spanish or Portuguese as their primary language. Linguistic Isolation has my region ranked in the 97th percentile nationally, and it’s challenging for those people to read English when they don’t know what any of it means. To go along with being linguistically isolated, my region ranks in the 90th percentile among people with an education less than high school. These groups of people are given no guidance on how to stay away from the river, or how to at least fish safely, so as anyone would, they go about their daily lives without having nearly enough information on just how serious this contamination is.

    Combining Demographic and Environmental Data:

    I think my data throughout both of these subject go hand in hand. I say this because most of the environmental problems are caused by outside parties rather than the people who live in the city. From a demographic perspective, the 55,000+ citizens inside of my buffer zone have little to no resources when trying to learn about these environmental issues, and it’s not their fault at all. My data popped off the screen at me, leading me to believe that the groups of people living in this specific part of Newark are all suffering from the same environmental problems. Sure, you could say that the people of Newark should learn to speak English and learn just like everyone else, but they don’t find that necessary when you live around a bunch of people just like you, they shouldn’t have to fit some specific mold because they’re different than the average American. I don’t see any reason as to why you can’t correlate these two groups of data and draw inferences about the problems going on in Newark along Riverfront Park and the Passaic River.


    Unlike most environmental problems, this one doesn’t have any kind of movement behind it or anything like that. The citizens of Newark that fit inside of my buffer zone suffer because of the negligence they are shown by their own City and State. These people are being punished for being different than the people that run our councils/parties. How can something be someone’s fault when they don’t even know what’s going on? The environmental side of this project really gets my blood boiling because it shows true ignorance and irresponsibility. When given as much power as Superfund sites have, it’s paramount that everything is done with the utmost attention, and this data shows that there is an extreme lack of attention shown by the sites that sat/sit along the river, and like I’ve said previously, that’s not fair to the citizens of Newark and the environment in general. The amount of waste that is seen throughout the river on a day to day basis is extremely disheartening to see. Newark deserves to live a clean happy life where they shouldn’t have to be weary about fishing in the Passaic River, and Newark’s citizens definitely shouldn’t have to suffer simply because they have no idea of the issues at hand.

    Oral Interviews:

    Video Story: