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 Post subject: Ringwood: EPA finds lead at a high level in animal
PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:52 am 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
EPA finds lead at a high level in animal from Ford dump site
e-mail print The Record

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Investigators have found a high level of lead in a squirrel tested during a study of wildlife at Ford Motor Co.'s former toxic-waste dump in Ringwood.

That discovery, announced Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, prompted the agency to widen its testing of wildlife for hazardous contaminants that may have leached from paint sludge Ford dumped at the former iron mining area in the 1960s and 1970s.

"We are now evaluating how to expand the study for the types of animals and how many to sample to get a better handle on what's going on," said Ben Barry, an EPA spokesman.

The EPA began testing some area wildlife last month at the request of residents and their attorneys, who are suing Ford for injuries they claim to their health from toxic substances -- including lead, arsenic, PCBs, benzene and other chemicals -- in the paint waste.

Barry emphasized that lead, at 50 parts per million, was found in only one of six squirrels tested. It did not show up in field mice and voles, he said. The EPA is "not making any recommendations at this point" about a hunting advisory, Barry said. If residents or other hunters are worried about consuming animals, he said, "This is a personal decision."

The test result confirmed fears that local residents have long raised.

"That was a big concern with the animals we eat," said Vivian Milligan, whose family has eaten squirrels, rabbits and other local wildlife for years. Milligan, a leader of the Upper Ringwood neighborhood association, said that hunters from outside the area should be warned. "I would be telling everybody not to be eating the animals around here."

The landfill area where the squirrel was captured is across Peters Mine Road from several homes, including Milligan's. It is also adjacent to part of Ringwood State Park near Ringwood Manor. The area is popular with hunters.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the EPA report, but does not think it has enough information to consider posting a hunting advisory, said a spokesman, Larry Hajna.

"It's still limited data. The EPA will keep us updated as they expand their study," Hajna said.

The EPA is overseeing a cleanup of toxic waste from Ford's former Mahwah assembly plant. Since December 2004, Ford has removed 20,000 tons of paint sludge and soil from areas along a hiking trail in the state park.

After an initial cleanup, the EPA declared the site clean in 1994 and removed it from the list of Superfund sites. As reported in The Record's "Toxic Legacy" series last year, the EPA relied on Ford's assurances that the pollution had been removed. But following disclosures that mounds of waste remained, the site was recently put back on the list of Superfund sites as one of the nation's worst pollution cases.

A major public health concern is the nearby Wanaque Reservoir, which serves 2 million North Jersey residents. Officials say water tests have found no evidence contaminants have traveled that far. Another concern is for residents near the dump site and for numerous park visitors and hunters.

Ringwood Mayor Joanne Atlas was doubly upset Monday when she learned about the lead test result from a newspaper reporter, not from the federal government.

"I'm really angry," she said. "I think a lot of people share my anger."

Atlas said the EPA should test deer, turkey and other wildlife that many residents of the Highlands town traditionally hunt and eat.

"A lot of people in town consume venison," she said. "Wild turkey -- it's a very popular item, especially now. A lot of people shoot their own turkey for Thanksgiving. They [the EPA] need to expand their research and people need to know."

Atlas said she had just sent a letter Monday to the EPA asking for a meeting to address "poor communication" on other aspects of the cleanup.

Robert Spiegel of Edison Wetlands Association, a non-profit advocacy group that provides technical advice to the Upper Ringwood neighborhood association, said wildlife should have been tested years ago.

"This certainly should send up red flags to both the state and the EPA," he said. "Governor Corzine needs to declare this area as a disaster area. Is it safe for people to have gardens? Is it safe for anybody to go hunting up there in the mountains?"

Reprinted courtesy of The Record,

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