Historic Oradell Water Treatment Plant


The Oradell Water Treatment Plant sits on Van Buskirk Island, a man made island created when the Hackensack River was dammed in the 1800’s. The area was of great commercial and industrial activity as the Hackensack River was used by boats to ferry men, materials and good into NYC, dating as far back as the 1600’s. There were several mills that operated here over the years until 1881 when the land was turned over to the Hackensack Water Company, which operated a water filtration plant, operating on steam driven equipment. It was here in the 1920’s that activated carbon filtration was developed by George Spalding, which became the national and international standard for water filtration.

In 1990, United Water (formerly Hackensack Water Company) stopped using the facility and turned it over to Bergen County for use as… well no one is exactly sure what. The County has had the property for 12 years and during the first 6 years they simply debated what to do with the property. It turned the property over to Oradell to do with it what it wanted, but they eventually turned it back over to the County. By 1996 the site was designated as one of the 10 most threatened historic sites in the nation. By July 2001 nothing had been done and County Executive Pat Schuber announced plans to build a “ruins amphitheater” and demolish the buildings. The conservancy group was outraged and soon they began working on their own plan: preserve the site and create a center for culture, science & history. They claim they can pay for their plan with donations, whereas the County plan would cost taxpayers nearly 10 million dollars. On the surface it sounds better, but can they raise the money?

The appointment of a new County Executive has not done much to resolve the issue.


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bryanjames on June 20, 2016 at 12:23 AM

    I personally know people who have been into this property. They say that it is awesome and everyone should go in there if they have the chance to.


  2. Posted by Roger Frykberg on October 7, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    I remember that plant when it still ran I also remember the last two worker (builder housing) housing on madison ave before they were dammaged by the new replacement/bypass pipe that blew out and the fire dept. Had to hike thru the woods behind the houses to help the families out before they clasped. Nope had to use heavy equipment. Real houses last of the ones in the area


  3. Posted by magpie91 on April 17, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    PLEASE do not list this site as ABANDONED! It is far from Abandoned. The Water Works Conservancy, the Hackensack River Keeper, a division of Rutgers University, the Borough of Oradell and New Milford as well as Bergen County are all meeting to create a restoration and preservation plan. It is EXTREMELY hazardous at this time for ANYONE to go into the site – life threatening. PLEASE remove this listing and do not encourage adventurous people to visit this site…it is very dangerous at this point in time.


    • Posted by lostinjersey on April 17, 2012 at 10:15 PM

      I have great respect for the efforts made to preserve this site, and hope the efforts are successful. That said, nowhere in the writeup does it say abandoned, nor are people encouraged to trespass. This website documents all manner of things in NJ including historical sites which this definitely qualifies as. This site does not encourage illegal behavior and in fact attempts to preserve thru photography, things that others might not be able to visit so that they don’t have to. Your comments that it is hazardous are noted, and anyone who tries to go in would be foolish to do so.


  4. Posted by ashleyfitz on October 5, 2009 at 6:04 PM

    They are planning to either make a park out of it, or condominiums for people 50 years of age or older. I actually feel very sad, I mean being a kid, it’s special to us.


  5. Posted by harmonsmith on April 1, 2009 at 7:18 AM

    The chief source which has contributed to the water pollution is the human beings. Human beings needs the water at par and though a big contributor in the water pollution. The sweet water in the form of rivers and ponds are so polluted that it has come to the level of extinction. Industries are the biggest source of water pollution. Who are releasing large amount of hazardous waste into our water resources. In order to do proper treatment of this waste water consultant like JNB must be contacted


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