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 Post subject: Ringwood: Lawmakers call on EPA to hire new tester
PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 12:14 am 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
Lawmakers call on EPA to hire new tester for Ringwood

Friday, February 10, 2006

By BARBARA WILLIAMS and JAN BARRY
STAFF WRITERS

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qst ... k2ODc3MTgz

RINGWOOD -- New Jersey's senators want an independent eye to evaluate the nature of and danger posed by poisonous waste uncovered in Ford's former dump in Upper Ringwood.

Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez on Thursday urged Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to have the EPA "dispatch an independent evaluator to test paint sludge and iron waste to determine arsenic levels and other pollutants."

Their action comes in the wake of a discovery of elevated levels of arsenic in a pit in Ringwood State Park, after lead-based paint sludge was removed there.

Ford Motor Co. consultants maintain the arsenic is a byproduct of iron mining that took place before Ford dumped industrial waste there in the late 1960s. Ford in the past year removed tons of paint sludge and contaminated soil that was missed in previous cleanups, which began in 1987.

Lautenberg and Menendez pointed to "strong evidence that contradicts Ford's claims," such as previous EPA reports and independent tests going back to 1987 that found arsenic in paint sludge at elevated levels.

EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg replied in a statement, "We are committed to finding the source and the extent of the arsenic contamination recently discovered at the site. We have not completed our investigation or made any determinations. No matter what, EPA will ensure that the contamination is addressed in a way that is protective of human health, regardless of the source."

EPA staff met with Ringwood residents Thursday night to talk about the arsenic near their neighborhood. They said the heavy metal poses no danger to the public because it is at the bottom of a 6-foot hole, covered with plastic and behind fencing.

But residents demanded that the EPA have it removed.

"We're walking around dying, dizzy and sick with cancer," resident Roger DeGroat said. "How long will it take to clean this place up? We don't have a lot of time left."

The arsenic was found in soil off Peters Mine Road. Preliminary tests results in December showed elevated levels, of 22.3 and 46.4 parts per million. New Jersey's safety cleanup level is 20 ppm.

Arsenic is linked to increased risk of lung, liver, kidney, bladder and skin cancer, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. It occurs naturally in conjunction with iron ore; it is also found in automotive paint.

A Ford subsidiary bought 900 acres of a former iron mining community in 1965 and used it as an industrial dump from 1967 to 1971. The bulk of land was then given to the town and to the state. It includes a residential neighborhood of about 48 homes.

Residents, many of them members of the state-recognized Ramapough Mountain Indian tribe, have complained of cancer deaths and serious illnesses. They recently sued Ford, claiming personal injury and property damage from the dumping.

On Thursday night, their Native American heritage was referred to by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch. Claiming the cleanup is going slowly compared with others he has seen, Pallone said, "I can't help but feel this is a form of environmental racism."

Like Lautenberg and Menendez, he called for an independent laboratory tests, and for the site to be put back on the federal Superfund list of the nation's worst contamination cases.

Many of the contentions in the residents' lawsuit mirror the findings of The Record's Toxic Legacy series, published last fall. The series found that Ford conducted a limited cleanup 10 years ago while assuring the EPA the job was thoroughly done.

Joe Gowers, EPA manager of the site, said earlier Thursday that the arsenic may or may not be removed from the site, depending on whether officials believe it is a danger. First, they must discover where it came from.

"We have to determine if we're dealing with another waste material, if it poses a risk to humans or the environment, and then how to address it," Gowers said.

He repeated those remarks to residents Thursday night.

State DEP spokesman Fred Mumford said this week that the state is urging federal authorities to demand more testing.

"We do not have specific information suggesting this ore or tailings were naturally elevated in arsenic. Sampling and analysis of the ore or tailings away from the sludge disposal are needed. We are recommending to EPA that Ford do additional background sampling to obtain this data," Mumford said.

So far, only water in the immediate area seems to be affected. Gowers said only one monitoring well near the newly discovered arsenic has shown elevated levels of arsenic.

Municipal water supplies appear safe. Borough Manager Ken Hetrick said testing of Ringwood's three municipal wells in 2003 found virtually no arsenic. He said those wells will be tested again this year.

Kevin Madonna, one of the attorneys for the residents, said that as a prior property owner, Ford must deal with all site contaminants.

"According to the law, if the owner moves toxins around on their site, they are responsible, even if the waste was from another owner. We know Ford has done four prior cleanups, so there was movement on the site," Madonna said. "But this is another example of Ford trying to blame someone else. They tried to blame the borough. Now they're trying to blame Mother Earth."

Ford has pressed the EPA to hold Ringwood responsible for some costs of the cleanup, arguing that the borough allowed dumping to occur and accepted much of the dump area as a gift from Ford.

Fast facts

Several developments are happening simultaneously regarding Ford Motor Co.'s paint waste:

# Under EPA oversight, Ford is still removing paint sludge in Upper Ringwood in a cleanup effort that began in 1987.

# New Jersey is investigating waste on residential properties.

# State and federal health agencies are looking at residents' health complaints.

# More than 700 current and former residents sued Ford on personal injury claims.

# Ford is now planning to remove paint sludge from a site in Hillburn, N.Y., next to the company's former assembly plant in Mahwah.

# Ford is also negotiating with New York to deal with other paint sludge dumps in Rockland County.

E-mail: williams@northjersey.com and barry@northjersey.com

6877183

Reproduced with permission of North Jersey Media Group.

http://www.northjersey.com


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