t wasn’t too long ago that the Cooper River was awash in raw sewage. Even today, approaching the river at Gateway Park in Pennsauken, a sign warns visitors of possible sewage overflows during and following wet weather.
Nevertheless, environmentalists and local and county officials tout achievements in cleaning up the 17-mile river, a portion of which has been designated by the state for the highest levels of protections for surface waters in New Jersey.
The designation of two miles of the tidal waters of the Cooper for Category 1 (C-1) protection by the Department of Environmental Protection marks the first-ever for an urban stream, a distinction earned by improving water quality and the finding of an endangered species, the Easternpond mussel, in sections of the waterway.
“The Cooper River is a poster child for why we passed the Clean Water Act and how the Act has succeeded. In a generation, we have gone from the river serving as a dead zone to being a living part of Camden County communities,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.