65,000 urge EPA to force Ford to fix toxic mess

Ford Motor Co. has stirred up residents of Upper Ringwood, N.J., where 65,000 environmentalists have complained in an Internet campaign on Change.org that the car company has left toxic waste in the state-run Ringwood State Park.
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The Internet campaign asks the Environmental Protection Agency and New Jersey legislators to clean up toxic waste they allege was left by Ford Motor five decades ago.

The complaints come as the decades-long battle over pollution in Ringwood State Park reaches a climax. The EPA is expected to decide what to do with the park soon. The toxic waste was left in the park by Ford Motor in the 1960s and 1970s, an Edison Wetlands Association spokesman said in a news release today.

“The Environmental Protection Agency must determine whether helping a corporate polluter avoid cleaning up mines filled with toxic waste is more important than protecting the future health and safety of the already suffering Ringwood residents,” Edison Wetlands Association Executive Director Robert Spiegel told reporters today.

“It is clear that only a full removal of toxic waste from the neighborhoods, the mines, and Ringwood State Park will protect the families who live and recreate in this region.”

NorthJersey.com reports today that earlier this month, federal environmental experts urged dozens of Upper Ringwood, N.J., residents to have their homes and properties tested for dioxin and lead, sounding a warning of the dangers of living on a Superfund site. The EPA, which is overseeing the cleanup of the 500-acre site in question, offered to conduct the testing and remove any contamination, a task some residents said should have been done decades ago.

Elevated levels of dioxin were found in some homes, lawyers for residents revealed in "Mann v. Ford," an HBO documentary that premiered last month, NorthJersey.com said in its report today. However, those test results were never shared with state or federal regulators, which made the EPA offer testing.

According to NorthJersey.com, Ford Motor dumped tons of industrial waste and paint sludge, castoffs from its former Mahwahfactory that was once the nation's largest auto manufacturing plant. Paint sludge, which still remains in major dumping areas and on a few properties, contains high levels of contaminants, including arsenic, lead and volatile organic compounds such as benzene.

The park comprises 50 miles within 4,044 acres. It features wild lands and landscaped gardens. It consists of four areas separated by several miles: Ringwood Manor, Skylands Manor / N.J. State Botanical Garden, Shepherd Lake, and Bear Swamp Lake. Trails are used for hiking, mountain biking, a bridle path and other uses.

When the environmental nonprofit organization Edison Wetlands Association first began helping residents seven years ago, massive mountains of toxic paint sludge (as pictured in the Wikipedia image) still sat out in the open, bleeding their chemical poisons into residents’ backyards, drinking water and school bus stops -- even though the EPA had declared the site clean years earlier, according to the association. Since then, more than 47,000 cubic tons of toxic leaching lead sludge have been removed, more than six times the amount removed in the previous 30 years combined, the association said.

In the next two months, the EPA will decide how much toxic sludge Ford Motor will be required to remove from the site. The agency will consider everything from taking no action to full removal of all toxic waste, including the toxic sludge and other potential contaminants sitting in former iron mines that have the potential to leach into drinking water supplies for over a million residents, an association spokesman said.

“This campaign has really struck a chord with people,” Corinne Ball, director of organizing at Change.org, said in a statement released to reporters.

“You have a government agency decision looming, a local community riddled with health problems, and a lot of concern over whether or not a major corporation will be held accountable for the pollution in the park. Especially in these hard economic times, this really resonates with folks just trying to get by.”

You can reach TN's Hawke Fracassa at [email protected] or on Twitter: @HawkeFracassa.

View live signature totals of the campaign at Change.org: http://www.change.org/petitions/save-ringwood-state-park-dont-let-ford-motor-company-use-it-as-a-toxic-landfill. For information on this site, go to: www.RingwoodSuperfundSite.org. For information on the Edison Wetlands Association, go to: www.EdisonWetlands.org. Change.org is the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change — growing by more than 400,000 new members a month, and empowering millions of people to start, join, and win campaigns for social change in their community, city and country.

Image source: Wikipedia


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