What Happened to the Great Falls? Just Some Spring Cleaning
Thursday, April 12, 2012 • 7:13am
PATERSON, NJ - Tourists who came to Paterson on Tuesday to see the majesty of the cascading Great Falls left disappointed. They had picked the wrong day.
On Tuesday, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s began conducting its annual cleanup of the area.
Cleaning up the Great Falls is not as simple as it sounds. Sewerage commission crews diverted the flow of the Passaic River through an adjacent hydroelectric plant, which essentially shut off the 77-foot waterfall.
That allowed about 40 volunteers from Great Falls Youth Corps, Paterson Youth Council, Americorps, the New Jersey Youth Corps and employees of the sewerage commission to move into areas where the river normally flows to remove debris. Last year, they got rid of about 10 tons.
“Today we stand at the riverbank of the Passaic River as it approaches the Great Falls,’’ said Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission Executive Director Wayne Forrest. “Generally it is rapid flowing, but today it is pretty much dried up. It is our statutory mission since the creation of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in the city of Paterson’s legislature of 1902 to get down to the riverbed and remove pollution.”
“And the pollution, as you can see, some of it is natural from hurricane Irene,’’ Forrest added. “There are branches, whole trees that need to be cut up. But the other (debris) is man-made. Tires, a construction horse, a bed-frame. There are all types of debris from people who think the river is to be used as a dump.”
Officials hoped to have the cleanup done by the end of this week to allow the Great Falls to return to normal.
“I am helping the environment and letting the young people know that someone has to clean it up,” said Zamir Figuroa of the Great Falls Youth Corps.
Kalil Dyer, another Youth Corps member, agreed. “This is a national historical area,’’ Dyer said. “You have to bring up one big place to keep other small places clean. We have to keep this place clean so other places get clean too.”
“What I have told these students for the past two years,’’ said Forrest, “is after they spend a day here giving 110percent, moving heavy items, walking up the steep riverbank go back into their communities, go back to their schools, go back to their family members and tell them what they have done, what they have experienced.”
Sewerage commission officials noted the historical significance of the Great Falls. The agency’s environmental educator, Nicole Esposito, quoted the City of Paterson’s founding father and Great Falls visionary. “Alexander Hamilton once said, ‘If we can harness the power of the Great Falls we will no longer have to rely on the British to produce our clothing’” said Esposito. “This city is where the Industrial Revolution in the United States started. We had the first factories here, the first unions were formed here, this was a textile industry.’’
“The Great Falls are not only an important symbol representing the Paterson community, but also a significant piece of our nation’s history,” Forrest said. “The continued partnership between the PVSC and the Paterson community ensures that this unique historic site will be enjoyed by future generations.”