Associate News Editor
Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) holds an Annual Stream Cleanup in which more than 1,000 volunteers travel to several dozen locations to clean the North and South Branches of the Raritan River. Volunteers have fished out tires, shopping carts and even a washing machine.
When Bill Kibler, the director of policy for RHA, oversaw a cleanup in Neshanic, New Jersey, he saw a family fish half of a car out of the river with an all-terrain vehicle and a come-along winch. The car was first discovered during the previous year’s cleanup.
“They went down to the river and they didn’t stop until they got that car out of the river,” Kibler said. “I [told them], ‘You guys are amazing! How did you come up with this?’”
In 2019, RHA received an average water quality rating of “C” on a scale of “A” to “F.” Although the water is cleaner than it looks, a “C” rating means there is room for improvement. RHA strives to achieve a rating of “A” or “B” in all of its streams, according to its website.
“Poorly-planned development and unwise policy decisions at the local and state level continue to threaten the region’s waterways along with the cumulative impacts of pollution coming from irresponsible management of hazardous materials, fertilizers, pesticides, failing septic systems and other common sources,” RHA said in a statement on its website. “Especially in the context of extreme weather events, there is a heightened sense of urgency to protect our streams.”
Melanie Ezrin, a senior public policy and environmental science double major at the university, as well as the president of Students For the Environment (S4E), reiterated RHA’s statement about fertilizers and pesticides in an email statement.
“Agriculture is a major polluter due to usage of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as fecal matter from livestock such as cattle and chickens,” Ezrin said in the email. “Maryland and Delaware have major issues in particular with fecal matter seeping into groundwater and waterways because of the large chicken farming industry in both states. Fecal matter is an issue because it’s nitrogen dense, which is why it’s an excellent fertilizer.”
RHA is a nonprofit watershed conservation association that “owns and manages 11 wildlife preserves encompassing 476 acres and holds 33 conservation easements protecting 890 acres.” The organization is just one of 20 watershed management areas in New Jersey.
While RHA officially maintains the North and South Branches of the Raritan River and the tributaries that flow into them, its work is focused on the positive effects on the water quality of the Raritan River and the Lower Raritan River Basin.
“Our vision is that everyone within our reach has access to safe,…