UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Some Bergen County residents say they a water emergency on their hands.
Pristine streams in Upper Saddle River have turned brown, due to development nearby. It’s a problem CBS2 told you about last year and it has gotten worse, Lisa Rozner reported Thursday.
Ducks and turtles were recently seen swimming through mucky streams. Some residents call it an environmental disaster right outside their window. In 2017, kids played here, but not anymore.
“My house dropped approximately 33 percent in value,” resident Derek Michalski said. “My backyard is flooded for the second year in a row, almost chocolate brown water every time it rains.”
The mud is coming from a former golf course and apple orchard that contained arsenic from pesticides. It sits where Mahwah, Upper Saddle River and Ramsey meet. Last year, Drone Force 2 showed some 1,000 trees were cut down and hoses were spotted pumping mud onto an adjacent waterway.
Now, developer Toll Brothers is constructing dozens of upscale homes, but still the sediment-laden water is spilling onto the streets during heavy rains.
Resident Erik Friis recorded the situation on video. He said he believes it’s what prompted the towns of Upper Saddle River and Mahwah to again issue a stop work order that has now been in place for three weeks.
Kevin Boswell of Boswell Engineering is contracted by both municipalities to hold Toll Brothers accountable. He said the water is safe, but unsightly.
“It’s unacceptable,” Boswell said, but added when asked when residents can expect their water color to start getting back to normal, “I believe that you’re seeing significant progress being made at this time.”
MORE: Read The Stop Work Order
As for its impact to residents’ health, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said it tested more than 1,000 samples and everything is well below the legal limit.
However, some residents said when they had an outside lab test the water connected to their private wells it did not pass New Jersey drinking water standards, Rozner reported.
Boswell said arsenic is often naturally occurring in state wells, but resident continue to blame the project.
“We’re seeing a number of people test levels for fear of arsenic contamination and we’re seeing higher levels appear,” Friis said.
Toll Brothers twice declined to interview with CBSN New York on camera, but a spokesperson emailed, saying the site was remediated in 2017 and the company is working on containing the storm water.
But some residents are not buying it.
“After over two years they’ve been saying the same thing over and over and what they basically do is just a Band-Aid,” an Upper Saddle River resident said.
And only time will tell if residents will get their clear water back for good.
A highly regarded environmental engineer at Stevens Institute of Technology told Rozner it will likely take proper runoff measures and several rainstorms for the brown water sediment to wash away.