Hackensack Water Works at Oradell
The ultimate goal of Rutgers' involvement in this project is to see the Hackensack Water Works at Oradell and Van Buskirk Island rehabilitated for use by the public, while at the same time maintaining the site's historic and environmental integrity.
The Hackensack Water Works at Oradell water treatment plant opened on Van Buskirk Island in 1882 supplied the clean drinking water that allowed Bergen County to develop and prosper. The buildings and supporting storage reservoir system were expanded a number of times, and this treatment facility operated continuously until 1990. In 1993 a new water treatment facility opened in Haworth, N.J., and the island and historic buildings were given to Bergen County. For almost two decades a number of different proposals for reuse of the site have been proposed, but a community consensus has not been achieved.
The water works complex is an exceptional example of U.S. industrialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Filtration technology developed at this facility determined water treatment processes across the country. For this reason the site has been included on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. Within the local communities of Oradell and New Milford, as well as in Bergen County in general, there is strong public support for historic preservation and adaptive reuse of the buildings.
Conversely, this facility can also be viewed as an example of the rapid depletion of natural resources that had an incredibly negative environmental impact on the Hackensack River and its watershed. Local environmental organizations proposed tearing down the newer structures and allowing the oldest structures to deteriorate, leading to natural re-vegetate of the island and a return to a passive natural state in the highly urbanized Bergen County ecosystem. The positive ecological effects of the subsequent natural preservation would support the function and sustainability of Hackensack River wetlands.
Oradell site is awash in history (The Bergen Record, April 13, 2010)