PATERSON, NJ – The man in charge of pest control for Passaic County says the sewage outflow near the West Broadway bridge “does not pose a significant threat from mosquitoes.’’
Sediment has built up in that section of the Passaic River, forming an island that to some degree blocks the sewage from flowing down river, according to city officials and community activists. Some Patersonians have expressed concerns that the area could become a breeding area for disease-carrying bugs.
But Eric Green, Passaic County’s superintendent of Mosquito Control, said that’s not a concern based on the findings from an inspection conducted by his staff on August 15.
“The water in that area appears to be flowing adequately enough to prevent stagnation,’’ said Green in an email to Paterson activist Lydia Robles. “The only mosquito larvae we found were in a few small artificial containers that had washed onto the island sand bar there. We also located two pools of stagnant water on the island sand bar which have been cut off from the river. They did not contain mosquito larvae but we applied a type of larvicide which can be used in water as a preventative.’’
“Our biologist also placed a device to collect adult mosquitoes in this area overnight,’’ Green added. “In our opinion this area does not pose a significant threat from mosquitoes.’’
Untreated sewage spews into the river from about 20 locations in Paterson whenever the city’s antiquated sewer system gets overwhelmed by heavy rains. That’s because Paterson still uses a system in which the same pipes carry sewage and runoff from the rain. When there’s too much rain, the excess water gets discharged into the river before the pipes can carry it to the treatment plant. City officials have estimated that modernizing the sewer system would cost more than $100 million, a steep price for a city with financial struggles.
Robles expressed relief at the mosquito official’s assessment. “It is great that citizens can be comfortable knowing mosquitoes are not currently an issue along that area of the river,’’ she said. “Not only is it important to inform citizens about potential dangers, we must also inform them with potential solutions as well as results.’’
Robles said she has met with Mayor Jeffrey Jones about the sewage situation at the West Broadway bridge. Paterson’s Public Works Director Christopher Coke has said he plans to ask the United States Army Corps of Engineers to address the sediment build-up in the river.
Officials at the Passaic Valle Sewerage Authority already have inspected the site and determined that the problem is outside their jurisdiction. Robles said she also has reached out to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and been told that they don’t handle issues like the sediment build-up.
“I'm confident we will get answers, but it's funding we really need,’’ said Robles.
In the past couple of months, Robles has worked with activist David Gilmore in the “Let’s Save Paterson” cleanups of the river. Gilmore has asserted that the lingering sewage in the area of the bridge posed a health risk to citizens. Gilmore, a frequent critic of the Jones' administration, has criticized local officials for not doing enough to address the situation.
But Green said in his email “the myriad numbers of artificial containers we often find on residential and commercial properties’’ represent a greater concern.
“These containers can breed tens of thousands of mosquitoes and are very difficult for us to control as we cannot inspect every piece of property in any given municipality,’’ said Green. “Residents and property owners can significantly reduce any mosquito problem they are facing simply by making sure they’re not harboring any standing water on their properties. This is particularly important in more densely populated areas of the county. Container-breeding mosquitoes tend to be aggressive biters and are thought to play important roles in the transmission of West Nile and other mosquito-related diseases.’’