Several Montclair State University faculty have been (and continue to be) active in research related to the Passaic River over the last few years. This research, such as using computerized mapping systems to study pollutant sources and developing a method for rapid detection of organic contaminants in sediments, highlighted the importance of environmental research within the Passaic River Basin and the complexity of the issues. Montclair State University recognized the need for a formal university-based institute that would undertake long-term, extensive, multi-disciplinary scientific studies. Thus, the Passaic River Institute for Environmental Research and Education (commonly known as the "Passaic River Institute"or "PRI") was formed within the College of Science and Mathematics in 2003.
As a permanent scientific organization with the support of a large university, the Institute can serve as a publicly accessible archive and clearinghouse of scientific reports and data - effectively providing the institutional memory of scientific and environmental work in the Basin. A university-based Institute also provides a neutral forum for examining and discussing controversial environmental questions, particularly regarding cleanup of the heavily polluted lower portions of the River. PRI is knitting together over 25 physical, biological and social scientists from on the faculty several departments so they can effectively tackle the complex environmental problems within the Passaic River basin. Additional scientists from outside MSU with specific valuable expertise have also joined the PRI as Research Associates. Visiting researchers, and doctoral, masters and undergraduate students are also contributing.
PRI was publicly launched with the well attended Passaic River Symposium in June 2004. PRI is actively working to build a field station on the River, complete with boat docks, laboratories and educational facilities and programs, to facilitate research and community awareness. We are also meeting with government agencies and environmental groups active in the Basin to learn about issues and priorities and build alliances. Finally, we are actively developing research proposals to gain funding for projects.