Orchard Creek in Rahway and Woodbridge is to Blame for Flooding, Water Pollution, and Threats to Wildlife

The failure of the City of Rahway to maintain the creek that flows between the St. Gertrude Cemetery and the South Branch Rahway River is to blame for water pollution, threats to wildlife, and flooding in areas near the creek. When walking through the creek, I was surprised by the trash, debris, and sediment build up which has accumulated throughout the waterway over the course of decades. Please see here for pictures.

On this page, we will give a well cited background of the issues caused by the creek which runs throughout Rahway. The creek starts near the St. Gertrude Cemetery and flows into the South Branch Rahway River.

My neighbors and I have asked repeatedly for the City fix the creek, but they are not listening. We need your help and your voice. Please attend the next city council meeting and speak up, or sign our petition if you are unable to.

Please read this page and see the other pages on this site for more background information, photos and videos, and my communications with the city.

Flooding Concerns

Residents of the City of Rahway suffered two massive creek overflow events on July 22, 2019 and August 7, 2019 due to the city’s failure to maintain the creek that runs between St. Gertrude’s Cemetery and the South Branch Rahway River. I personally have owned a home on Lentz Ct since 2015. In this time, I have never experienced anything like the creek overflow that happened on these days. Please see videos of the flooding events here.

Retaining walls that were built decades ago along the creek have collapsed or are collapsing in most places.

Many areas of the creek are too low to the ground with no sufficient bank to stop the water.

There are blockages throughout the creek including trash, broken concrete debris, boulders, and whole trees/tree branches.

The sediment buildup further impedes the flow of water.

According to the EPA, sediment buildup alters the natural flow of water and reduces water depth.

These issues are further exasperated by the massive amounts of runoff being forced into the Creek by the Township of Woodbridge, at the expense of Rahway residents.

Woodbridge Township and Middlesex County’s Role in Creek Overflowing

When investigating the source of the water, I found the majority of water flows into Orchard Creek are coming from Woodbridge runoff. Woodbridge Township has drain pipes of varying sizes placed throughout Orchard Creek in St. Gertrude Cemetery.

Mapped and other unmapped drainage locations into Orchard Creek in St. Gertrude Cemetery, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ. Map courtesy of Woodbridge GIS Viewer

The small stretch of Orchard Creek in Woodbridge runs through wooded areas and that section seems to handle the water volume.

On the other hand, the large portion of Orchard Creek which runs through Rahway is forced to handle massive volumes of stormwater being drained into it by Woodbridge Township. The portion of Orchard Creek in Rahway is unable to handle this water volume. I will go into more detail in the next section.

City of Rahway’s Role in Creek Overflowing

Despite the City of Rahway’s claim of responsibility for cleaning of creeks and flood control here, Mike Smalling (Director of DPW) claimed on August 14, 2019 during our personal meeting that Orchard Creek has not been touched in decades. The lack of maintenance on Orchard Creek has caused it to be in a disastrous state. The creek water in Rahway is impeded by sediment build up, tree branches, and concrete debris. The banks at the beginning of Orchard Creek in Rahway are almost level to the ground. The lack of proper creek banks cause water to overflow into the adjacent neighborhood. Retaining walls which were constructed decades ago have collapsed or are collapsing in many places. Orchard Creek in Rahway is not capable of handling the massive amounts of runoff being forced into it by Woodbridge Township.

Jacqueline Foushee, City Engineer, on August 14, 2019 claimed that dredging the creek would require permits from the state while simultaneously stating nothing could be done by the city to rectify the problem. Jacqueline is incorrect, something can be done, the city just chooses to do nothing. According to the State of New Jersey, a public entity can file for one dredging permit for the entire length of the Creek as long as all work takes place in one municipality.

Is the City of Rahway aware of how much runoff is being drained into Orchard Creek by Woodbridge Township? If so, what is the City of Rahway doing about it? If the City of Rahway is unable to maintain the creek due to finances, why don’t they have Woodbridge Township and Middlesex County pay for their runoff? Does City of Rahway leadership believe it is just to force homeowners to pay for the runoff of Woodbridge?

Drinking Water Pollution and Wildlife Concerns

Over the years, sediment (loose clay, silt, and soil) settles and accumulates on the bottom of water beds. According to MARC, sediment is the most common pollutant in rivers and streams. Sediment buildup has accumulated for decades in this creek. Mike Smalling, Director of Public Works, claimed during our August 14, 2019 meeting that he cannot recall the DPW ever dredging the creek or removing sediment.

MARC recognizes that sediment kills and endangers local wildlife. This happens by disrupting natural habitats, making it harder for animals to find food due to murky water, and clogging fish gills.

In addition to the dangers to wildlife, sediment is also a cause of pollution in drinking water. The creek in question flows into the South Branch Rahway River, which then flows to the Rahway River, the drinking water source for the City of Rahway, according to the Rahway River Watershed Association. MARC states that sediment entering storm-water degrades the quality of water for drinking and increases the cost of water treatment.

There are several drainage pipes going to the Orchard Creek in the small stretch in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ. During my two visits to this section of the creek on August 17 and August 18, 2019; I found green tinted water with foam at the top flowing from the Timberlane Drive 60 inch RCP pipe outfall. What is in this water, and why is there a constant flow of it going into Rahway’s drinking water?

We have seen the effects of contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan; and more recently in Newark, NJ. Let’s not let that happen to Rahway!

During my meeting with the City Director of Engineering, Jacqueline Foushee, on August 14, 2019, it was suggested there was no money to make improvements. The City of Rahway has money to handout $2 million dollars of taxpayer money for a private real estate development while neglecting their responsibilities. This ordinance was approved on July 16, 2019 and can be read here. The taxpayers need to demand an investigation into city finances.

I have created this website to spread information and organize the taxpayers of Rahway to demand action from city leaders. The City of Rahway publicly claims responsibility for the clearing of waterways. Despite their own acknowledgement of responsibility as seen here, and my best attempts to remind them of the same, the Mayor, City Engineer, and Public Works Director claim that creeks running through private property are the responsibility of the property owner. The uncoordinated efforts of individual homeowners is not sufficient to fix broken waterways, especially in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the US

The only way the taxpayers of Rahway can see the city take action is by speaking in a unified voice to demand city leaders fix this broken waterway. The taxpayers can demand action by attending City Council Meetings and signing our petition.