Annual environmental fair offers science, learning along with music, food and fun

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PLAINFIELD, NJ — Hundreds enjoyed free food, music and sunny skies, all while learning a little more about their environmental footprint during the 18th annual Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority Environmental Fair on Saturday, Sept. 9.

“Today’s just a day to give back to the community and bring the community together,” PMUA Executive Director Daniel Mejias said at the event. “So they get to meet the PMUA because our men and women go out at all times of the day and they never see them.”

The PMUA handles waste management services for the city and maintains 110 miles of sewer lines, according to the agency’s website.

Dozens of exhibits were on display, including those from the Liberty Science Center, Mad Science, the Union County College-based Amatuer Astronomers club and more. Local government and businesses also had tables on display.

Katie Sitnik and Kara Mann, STEM educators from the Liberty Science Center, used a toy-like display to teach kids about the Lower Raritan River Watershed, a 352-square mile area that includes Plainfield.

People in this area play an important part in what ultimately goes into the Raritan River. When it rains, water in this area eventually enters the river, the STEM educators explained.

“One simple thing people can do every day is make sure you don’t leave your garbage on the ground,” Mann said after she sprayed water onto the display to show how pollutants like oil and fertilizer eventually run into the river. “Pick up after your pets, because if we don’t, stuff goes into the ocean.”

Meanwhile, Shelly Martin, who attended AVTech, a vocational school in South Plainfield, was taking advantage of the fact that so many businesses were congregating in Library Park on Park Avenue.

“I’m here networking for the school and for me because I’m looking for a job,” Martin, a Plainfield resident, said. “So I’m here networking and they’re telling me who’s hiring who’s not. So I’m giving my resume out.”

Both Martin and Tiffany Jenkins, a lifelong Plainfield resident, said this year’s fair seemed more organized and offered more exhibits than in previous years. Both said they had visited the Investor’s Savings Bank table to learn more about savings accounts.

Attractions for children, such as an inflatable bouncy house and slide, were also available at the event, along with free popcorn, barbecue and Latino food. Free bags of school supplies and toiletries were distributed later in the afternoon.

“When these events are put together, we try to meet the needs for everyone, from adults down to the children,” Plainfield Councilman Barry Goode said at the event. “So everyone, when they come, they enjoy themselves. But not only that. They learn something when they leave.”

This year’s event was named after the former PMUA Executive Director Eric C. Watson, who served in that role for about 16 years and died last year, according to an online obituary. PMUA Environmental Fair Chairman Darius Griffin said the event is an opportunity to educate residents about the environment, something the country, as whole, also needs.

“It’s just to make people aware of the environment and the types of things that we’re supposed to do as far recycling and trying to things the right way,” Griffin said. “And more importantly, it’s just a day that we the PMUA want to give back to the people of Plainfield,” Griffin said.