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 Post subject: Ringwood: Ford site going on Superfund list again
PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 9:24 pm 
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Thursday, April 13, 2006


In a national first, the Environmental Protection Agency relisted the Upper Ringwood area as a Superfund site, guaranteeing the removal of tons of paint sludge and other toxic waste dumped a generation ago.

The decision, announced Wednesday by federal officials, shows President Bush's "unflagging commitment to environmental protection for the health and well-being of the Ramapough residents," said Alan J. Steinberg, the EPA's regional administrator in Manhattan.

For years, residents have lived with paint residue from the Ford Motor Co.'s former Mahwah plant, a river of contamination that later hardened into lava-like chunks, jutting from yards and woodlands. The community has blamed the pollution for a multitude of illnesses including cancer, asthma and unexplained skin rashes.

"It feels good,'' said resident Sylvia Van Dunk, who blames the cancer deaths of her daughter and nephew on the pollution. "I hope and pray that it's done right this time.''

"This is a very significant step," said Robert Spiegel, executive director of Edison Wetlands, an environmental group that lobbied the federal government to relist the site.

"It shows that the community has been right the whole time."

The Ringwood tract became a Superfund site in 1983, joining the National Priorities List, which has included more than 1,500 sites nationwide.

In 1994, the EPA declared the site clean enough to be removed from the list, despite protests from the community. For the past 12 years, residents of this neighborhood, who include a few hundred members of the Ramapough Mountain Tribe, have asked the government to remove paint sludge and include the area as a federally designated cleanup site.

The plight of the Ramapoughs and the story of the federal government's failed cleanup were the subject of a series in The Record, "Toxic Legacy."

"The people living near the Ringwood site have waited too long for justice," U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg said in announcing the EPA decision.

An EPA spokesman, Ben Barry, said the decision would still have to be published in the Federal Register, followed by a public comment period of at least 30 days, before it is final.

The agency hopes to announce the site's inclusion on the Superfund list in the April 19 register, but delays could push that back until fall, when the EPA is scheduled to publish its next batch of Superfund decisions, Barry said.

Still, he added, "We're in the end run."

Rejoining Superfund's National Priorities List will make Ringwood residents eligible for federal grants to hire their own scientific experts to monitor the cleanup. It will also allow state government to recoup some expenses for its oversight of the project and give New Jersey a say on when and whether the cleanup is finally declared complete.

"This certainly will be welcome,'' said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Governor Corzine.

It could complicate state efforts to sue Ford for the environmental damage. New Jersey officials promised last year to file a lawsuit, but Superfund rules and legal precedent make it harder to pursue such claims, at least until a company submits its final cleanup plan. Ford has yet to do so.

"I am very pleased with this step toward final and complete cleanup," said U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, who has been working with federal and state officials to maximize the resources available at the site for the cleanup.

"This is a positive sign that we are moving forward, and I will continue to work aggressively on behalf of the residents of Ringwood until the work is done."

Ford spokesman Jon Holt said the announcement Wednesday would have little effect on the company's remediation effort.

"We've been treating the site as if it were on the list," Holt said. "This is not going to affect our activities at the site. We've been working on it the last two years."

In recent weeks, cleanup crews have concentrated on an area at Peters Mine, located at the top of Peters Mine Road, where truckers dumped paint, cardboard and tons of waste from the plant a generation ago.

Soil and water samples were taken from this location and sent to labs for analysis this week, Holt said.

Two-thirds of the work has been completed on previously identified sites, but there's more work to be done in these newly identified areas at Peters Mine and Cannon Mine, he said.

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Reproduced with permission of North Jersey Media Group.

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