By Vincent Kahwaty
On a chilly December Sunday morning, the teens and group leaders of the CBH River Health Monitoring Committee braved the cold to head over to Stanley Park for a health check of the Passaic River. Their task was to observe and log information about specific aspects of the river environment to make sure that it can accommodate a wide variety of wildlife species.
Jackson Levine, Nate and Joe Laposky, and committee leaders Helene Goldfarb and Stephanie Tran took notes on water pollution, sewage, water speed, aquatic vegetation (including algae growth), man-made structures in or around the banks of the river, and assessed the erosion of both the left and right banks.
The group logged their observations and compared them to previous records. In the spring and summer months, the team will return to the river and collect samples to test and submit to the Great Swamp Association of Water Monitoring, who then send a report to the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP. This organization monitors the health of wildlife sanctuaries, including those in rivers and streams.
So how does monitoring the river health help wildlife habitats and ecosystems, you ask? Well, the river is an ecosystem itself that serves other ecosystems and wildlife species.
The river consists of natural water from snow melt and rainwater from spring and summer storms. The water that pools on your street after heavy rainfalls gets washed down into the storm drains and eventually ends up in streams and rivers. This natural freshwater sustains the trees that grow on the banks of the river. Animals such as squirrels and birds nest in those trees and eat the nuts and fruit that the trees provide.
There is another important ecosystem under the river’s surface, where fish dwell in the algae beds, and even small turtles might swim up and down the stream. It is vital to protect the rivers and streams of our state so that these ecosystems can survive.
The CBH team is collecting information to help preserve a safe and healthy environment for wildlife. This is a great example of serving the community and of Tikkun Olam, which means healing, or mending the world.
How can you help? Picking up garbage on your street and cleaning out a storm drain are good ways to make sure that fresh water can flow into our rivers and streams.
Sign at Stanley Park Entrance
Passaic River at Stanley Park