The New Jersey Arsenic Awareness Initiative reflects the combined efforts of the Barnard 2011, 2012 and 2014 Workshops in Sustainable Development ("The Barnard Arsenic Awareness Initiative"), the Barnard Instructional Media and Technology Services department, the Hunterdon County Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Science, Research and Environmental Health, the New Jersey Geological and Water Survey, the Columbia University Superfund Research Translation group, and a group of New Jersey environmental and health professionals and concerned citizens.
The project was born out of a Barnard College class, Workshop in Sustainable Development, taught in 2011 by Professor Martin Stute. A “Junior Research” requirement for the Environmental Policy major, this course was geared toward students pursuing careers in environmental fields with a focus on hands-on consulting experience in a small group setting. The five students enrolled in this section of the course, Ashley Walker (BC ’12), Aviva Hamavid (BC ’13), Helen Kilian (BC ’13), Lucy Siguenza (CC ’12), and Sarah Lyon (BC ’12), were assigned the task of working with the Hunterdon County Department of Health to educate Hunterdon County residents about the risk posed by arsenic contamination of private well water. The ultimate goal of the project was not only to raise awareness about the issue, but also to spur at-risk residents to action, testing and subsequently treating their water, if necessary. The students, with little to no background in either the issue of arsenic in New Jersey or film production, embraced this project, educating themselves in both arenas in order to produce two videos and a website to achieve that goal. They hope that with continued dissemination of their products, in the future, the population of Hunterdon County will be safeguarded against arsenic-associated risks.
Ken Kim and Miriam Neptune of the Barnard Instructional Media and Technology Services Department were core team members, teaching the students video and editing skills and ensuring a professional result, without them this project would not have been possible.
Debra Vacarella of the Hunterdon County Department of Health was the Workshop client, without whom the Workshop project would not have come into being and she provided important guidance and support throughout.
The Columbia Superfund Research Program Research Translation group (SRP RTC) from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Center for Earth Science Information Network , with its focus on arsenic and groundwater, laid the foundation for the Workshop, carried the website through to life following the Workshop, and will be responsible for managing the effort going forward, in collaboration with future Workshops. Stuart Braman and Martin Stute led this SRP RTC effort and Steve Chillrud and Meredith Golden contributed as well.
Steve Spayd of the New Jersey Geological Survey has provided and is continuing to provide critical inputs to every part of the project, his longtime devotion to illuminating the issue of arsenic in well water making him a natural partner of the New Jersey Arsenic Awareness Initiative. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Science has been critical in providing an understanding of the Private Well Testing Act data implications, an important collaborator and will be instrumental in broadening the focus of the initiative from Hunterdon County to all of New Jersey that is subject to arsenic contamination, as we move forward. Gary Guarino, Health Officer from Hopewell, NJ, has provided an added hands-on Health Department perspective grounded in decades of experience working with homeowners confronting arsenic-contaminated wells.
Columbia Superfund Research Program Community Engagement Core (SRP CEC) researchers Sara Flanagan and Yan Zheng have contributed through surveys conducted in New Jersey communities that informed the socioeconomic and behavioral barriers to testing and treatment, further supporting the efficacy of regulation such as New Jersey's Private Well Testing Act.
Financial support for the project was provided by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program and the Heineman Foundation.