The Lower Passaic River has long provided for the communities that live and work along its banks. Its waters powered America’s first manufacturing plants, housed crayfish, eel and bass, and fed families of farmers as well as herons and egrets. Industrialization and urbanization have only raised the stakes of stewardship. Today, the Lower Passaic flows by neighborhoods like the Ironbound district of Newark, where successive generations of industry have deposited an unsettled debt of mercury, dioxin, and PCBs in the river’s sediments. Shoreline degradation and climate change have exposed communities to the growing threats of storm surges and floods. The residents who bear the brunt of this burden also often lack physical access to the waterfront and the benefits of riverside life.
Against this backdrop, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have created the Lower Passaic Urban Waters Partnership. The partnership, a working group of governmental, non-profit, and community stakeholders, aims to break down agency silos, support and enhance local leadership, and leverage area resources to stimulate local economies. This work is growing in importance as plans move forward for the clean-up of the Superfund site.