Northernmost Pine Barrens Worthy of Cleanup and Restoration By Robert Spiegel, Executive Director of Edison Wetlands Association, and Stuart Brown, Intern of Edison Wetlands Association

Driving on a hot summer day, sometimes you forgo the air conditioning and roll down the windows for the sweet smell of clean air and the wind in your face. Driving down County Road 656, aka Riverside drive, there is a little something extra carried by that wind and the water; the tinge of chemicals seeping from a so called “remediated” site that feeds into Morris Pond. When looking into the pond or one of the many vernal pools nearby, it is easy to spot the sheen on the water’s surface that gives away the poisonous chemical’s presence. The Morris Pond and adjacent streams are being polluted because of PCB’s and Phthalates seeping from Hatco RCRA Chemical Plant.

One of the Vernal Pools being polluted downstream from the Hatco Site.

One of the Vernal Pools being polluted downstream from the Hatco Site.

Woodbridge’s Morris Pond wasn’t always like this, it used to be a safe haven for amphibians, reptiles, passerine birds and other animals.  This area is surrounded by the northernmost pine barrens forest in New Jersey. In fact, a study done on the land has shown many significant species of plants indicative of the pine barrens still live here. Some of these plants include pitch pine, sweetgum and red maple trees as well as sweet pepperbush, highbush blueberries and black huckleberries. There are many oak trees inhabiting the land now, but according to Rutgers’ assessment of the forest, pine barrens often become oak dominated when their natural fire cycle is suppressed.

If restored properly, this patch of land could become more than just a safe haven for important animal and plant species; Morris pond and the entire Keasbey Restoration could become the next great recreational eco-tourism destination area in Woodbridge, NJ. Routes are being planned to extend the Middlesex and East Coast Greenways trails through these forests and the ponds and would give excellent vantage points for bird watching, turtle spotting or catch and release fishing. Once cleaned up, Morris pond will be a veritable oasis in the oak dominated forests of NJ.

So next time you’re driving down Riverside drive, think to yourself. Would you rather have the aroma of chemicals perforating your nose, or would you rather have the sweet songs of chirping birds singing to your ear’s delight?Hatco Sign

Buildings seen from the edge of the Hatco Site

Buildings seen from the edge of the Hatco Site

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