The Pequannock River is suffering from high temperatures, dead fish and low water levels due to Newark’s reluctance to allow enough water into the river from its Highlands reservoirs, environmentalists and local officials say. The city has been fighting the Department of Environmental Protection for more than four years over permit requirements to pump more water into the often bone-dry river.
Now Newark is in talks to sell water to Kinnelon and Pequannock, drawing the ire of environmentalists who say the city is acting out of greed instead of doing what is responsible.
“Newark is looking to make a profit on water that should be going into the river,” said Ross Kushner, executive director of the Pequannock River Coalition. “If they have enough water to sell to other towns, they ought to have enough water to comply with the DEP.”
The Pequannock is an important tributary of the Passaic River. It combines with the Ramapo River in Wayne to become the Pompton River before it connects with the Passaic. The lack of water dramatically lowers the river so that in some places it is only ankle-deep. During the summer, it sometimes becomes a dry riverbed.
The low levels raise the water temperature on some days to more than 75 degrees, which is harmful to the trout that spawn there. The summers of 2005 and 2006 saw 62 days with temperatures over 75 degrees. The highest temperatures ever recorded in the Pequannock River came during those two summers – 80.9 degrees in July 2005 and 82 degrees in July 2006.