By: Arianne Bakelmun
Photos by: Jenny Hernandez
PCCC sophomore and Environmental Sustainability major Abimael Fidanque is concerned about the water changes due to global warming. As part of the Urban Scholars for Climate Change grant, he is advised by Professor Mark Yuschak from Kean University’s
School of Sustainability and Environmental Sciences. With Professor Yuschak’s help, Fidanque focused his research on studying whether commercially bottled water is safe to drink.
He elaborates, “glaciers and permafrost are melting, sea level will increase…not a lot of measures are being done to combat sea level rise. My worry is our coastal cities. Since we live in New Jersey and we’re by the coast, we really want to take care and focus on the water. What if there’s a storm, a hurricane, and the water gets inside our cities and pollutes our natural drinking water? What are we going to drink?”
This very scenario played out recently. As per NorthJersey.com, On September 1st, 2021, “record-breaking rainfall caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida” ripped through North Jersey (Gomez).
Suez water company detailed, “there was a breach in the wall of the Jersey City Aqueduct due to impacts from tropical storm Ida. This breach allowed surface water to enter and increased the turbidity levels in the drinking water.” Additionally, Suez explained that, “because of these high levels of turbidity, there is an increased chance that the water may contain disease-causing organisms” (Gomez).
In the face of this kind of water disaster, Fidanque warns, “we could boil it but boiling only does so much. It doesn’t remove every chemical in there or every type of bacteria.”
Through his research, which took place from March 2022 through August 2022, Fidanque has analyzed the popular bottled water brands Aquafina, Dasani, Smartwater, and Poland Spring. In addition, he has collected and tested samples from several New Jersey bodies of water. These include a pond in Third Ward Park in Passaic, NJ as well as Budd Lake in Morris County, NJ.
Fidanque uses water testing kits to analyze a number of indicators for water health. They include measurements for lead, pesticides, water hardness, chlorine, alkalinity, pH, nitrites, nitrates, copper, and iron. A “Six Test” accesses bacteria like coliform and E. coli, as well as hydrogen sulfide and the previously mentioned iron, copper, and nitrates.
Fidanque confirms that several of his sources contain copper, iron, and mircoplastics. Each of these is damaging to human health, an eventuality that he is invested in avoiding. Especially in the event that people are relying on bottled water, he asserts, “people should have the entitlement to know if their water is really clean, like big brands promote and say they are.”
If his findings are concerning, Fidanque plans to take action by bringing this data to the New Jersey Department of Health. Fidanque works for the Department of Health as part of the Covid Community Corps. He provides outreach and brings awareness and resources to vulnerable, low-vaccinated populations. Public health is an issue he cares deeply about, particularly within his community. He states, “I always lived in Passaic, born and raised.” As such, Fidanque has seen firsthand the pollution in water near his home.
In light of his research, Fidanque recommends people drink filtered water. Additionally, he cautions against unsustainable practices that increase carbon dioxide, raise global temperatures, melt ice caps, and lead to rising sea levels. This is a trajectory which brings about flooding, lessens the potential availability of potable water, and increases the spread of contaminated water that he has made the focus of his study.
Looking forward, he offers a solution for, “big companies to stop dumping metals and for people to stop throwing trash in rivers or water, because, at the end of the day, it’s only going to affect us much worse. It’s going to affect the fish, and the animals, and the ecosystems around us which is not healthy either. If the ecosystems are down, then we’ll die as a species.”
Gomez, Jessie. “Boil Water Orders Issued after Ida Rainfall in North Jersey. These Towns Are on the List.” North Jersey Media Group, NorthJersey.com, 3 Sept. 2021, https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/2021/09/03/ida-boil-water-order-new-jersey-hoboken-jersey-city-paterson-passaic-clifton/5711401001/.