Berry's Creek is indicated in yellow.
It begins at Riser
Ditch (below Teterboro Airport), passes through the Meadowlands Sports Complex and
exits into the Hackensack River.
[Map] from Route 120/Paterson Plank Road north
to Teterboro Airport --
includes tide gate locations
|The surface of Berrys Creek reveals small,
rhythmic ripples continuing concentrically in unpredictable patterns. Although the flow of
this creek found in the Meadowlands produces a calming sound and atmosphere, it is what
lies beneath the surface of this creek which should concern any citizen of Bergen County.
Although this may sound vaguely reminiscent of some ludicrous horror movie involving the
Loch Ness Monster, the reality of the situation is really more threatening than many may
Berrys Creek has been tested
on several occasions and has been found to contain high levels of heavy metals, two of
which are chromium and mercury. Both of these contaminants have been tested and found to
be toxic. In past years, Berrys Creek has been declared as a Superfund Site.
Although the term Superfund Site has often been used to describe Berrys
Creek, most people do not completely understand what this term denotes. In 1980, the
Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was instated
by Congress; this act was created in response to certain environmentally hazardous sites
which were referred to as Superfund Sites. Through this program, measures were taken in
order to respond to the hazards posed by contaminated sites. The sub-department that
currently deals with monitoring Berrys Creek is the NJDEP. In order to fund the
overseeing and cleanup of this site, private funds, as opposed to public funds, are used.
These shockingly high levels of mercury
contamination in Berrys Creek are by no means the result of some natural process.
Through a landmark NJ court case, Ventron Velsicol was assigned responsibility for the
contamination of Berrys Creek and the surrounding area. It was found that they had
dumped untreated waste materials onto the property nearby the creek. The mercury from
these materials was discharged into the creek and nearby lands via drainage ditches. From
circa 1929 until 1974, it was found that approximately two to four pounds of mercury a day
were draining from the factory into Berrys Creek. Despite their attempts to install
a waste treatment facility, mercury was still found to be leaking into the surrounding
area. Although the Ventron facilities were abandoned and demolished in 1974, by that time,
the ecosystem of the area had been significantly disrupted and damaged.
In the tract which defines Berrys Creek, an
estimated 268 tons of toxic waste, most of which is mercury, can be found. Perhaps what is
even more shocking is that after significant testing, it has been found that for a
distance of roughly several thousand feet, the concentration of mercury in Berrys
Creek is the highest found in fresh water sediments in the world. This mercury is
classified as methyl mercury, and one of its foremost properties is that as it mixes with
other elements, the mercury continues to be released. The contamination of Berrys
Creek has progressed so far, that the oxygen levels within this body of water has been so
radically decreased, that fish can no longer populate Berrys Creek. When these facts
are accounted for and considered, the environmental status of Berrys Creek is most
certainly worthy of closer scrutiny and sorely needed community concern.
Although mercury content of some creeks in New
Jersey may not seem to pose a threat to many, it is a significant health hazard. The
methyl mercury found in Berrys Creek is the most toxic form of mercury. Studies have
been conducted, and it has been found that it can have negative effects on the immune and
nervous system, and can affect an individuals senses of touch, taste, and sight. It
is can severely alter or damage developing embryos, which are five to ten times more
vulnerable to the effects of mercury than adults. Human exposure to mercury in waterways
usually is a result of ingesting the element. Therefore any contaminated fish that are
eaten from that area, or any drinking water obtained from that area, can be potentially
harmful to anyone who consumes them.
Although the dangers of mercury are most
certainly a point of concern, all efforts are currently being exhausted by the NJDEP in
order to keep the public safe and unexposed to these dangers. The most any citizen can do
about Berrys Creek is to express their concern to their local government. They
should also keep themselves well-informed of the environmental status of the Meadowlands,
especially Berrys Creek.