DEP Must Hold Public Hearing on Ringwood Superfund Settlement

DEP Must Hold Public Hearing on Ringwood Superfund Settlement

The New Jersey Sierra Club sent a letter to DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe requesting a public hearing for the Consent Decree regarding cleanup of the Ford Superfund site in Ringwood. The letter also asked to extend the public comment period from 60 to 120 days. NJSC noted the complexity of the site and the public interest in the issues involved in making the requests. The EPA recently struck a $21 million settlement with the Ford Motor Company and Ringwood on a plan to cap hazardous materials on the site. (See NJSC letter to DEP attached)

“There are serious problems with the Ringwood Superfund settlement and DEP needs to address them. DEP must hold a public hearing and allow more time for public comment. The settlement is outrageous and the people need time to analyze it and speak out. The deal sells out the Ramapough community of Upper Ringwood that has suffered for so long from pollution from the site. EPA has sided with the polluters, letting Ford off the hook with a slap on the wrist. As Ford and Ringwood play games, this sellout plan allows Ford to cap the site instead of cleaning it up. Capping will not work, and the contamination will continue to spread and make people sick,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. ““The state has ignored its own interests in opposing a full cleanup. Pollution from the site has already impacted state lands and drinking water, yet the state is still going along with this settlement. The public needs to speak up in support of the community and oppose this terrible deal.”

The 500-acre Ringwood Superfund site, which includes part of Ringwood State Park, was used by Ford to dump industrial waste for 50 years and is polluted with heavy metals and hazardous chemicals. Cleanup plans for the site have been mismanaged for decades. The EPA settlement with Ford and the Borough of Ringwood allows hazardous chemicals such as 1, 4 dioxane, lead, arsenic, chromium to be capped. The site would then accommodate a recycling center.

“Many of the people are concerned that under the agreement the site will only be capped instead of fully cleaned up. Capping the site will not work. The site is heavily polluted with heavy metals and hazardous chemicals. Almost 166,000 tons of paint sludge and hazardous chemicals from the company’s plant are still prevalent on the site. The capping plan calls for an asphalt overtop that will eventually crack and fail, releasing hazardous materials and gases. The cap will not address polluted water seeping from the site. Hazardous chemicals will be leaching out from the contaminated site into the groundwater and streams,” said Tittel.

Studies have shown a substantial amount of health problems resulting from pollution at the site, including cancers, kidney ailments and other conditions.

“DEP needs to look at this settlement under Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 23. The Ramapough community in Upper Ringwood is an Environmental Justice Community that has been suffering from pollution for decades. Vapor intrusion and chemicals have impacted their health. They will not be helped by this settlement. There has been a tremendous amount of health problems already from the contamination and they will only get worse if the site is not cleaned up,” said Tittel.

Significant contamination from the Ringwood Superfund site has already impacted state land, adding to the state’s obligation to require a full cleanup. A substantial amount of pollution continues to leak into Ringwood State Park and is not being cleaned up.

“The state has a direct interest in contamination from the site that continues to damage state lands. Hazardous chemicals from the site, 1, 4 dioxane, are coming out of springs into streams that go into the Wanaque Reservoir, which provides drinking water for 3 million people. These chemicals are going into Mill Brook and Sally Pond in Ringwood State Park. These are C1 streams and Highlands water,” said Tittel. “We believe the contamination from the mines going into the streams violates surface water quality standards. It also violates RCRA and New Jersey’s own groundwater cleanup standards. It goes against decades of DEP protocol for cleanup.”

Capping the site to accommodate a recycling center allows Ford to save millions of dollars in cleanup while leaving contamination in place. New Jersey has the authority to order a full cleanup under the New Jersey Spill Act. Previous DEP commissioners, including Lisa Jackson, called for a full cleanup. The original Record of Decision after this site was relisted on the National Priority List called for a full cleanup.

 “The public is concerned that Ringwood and Ford have been playing games to save Ford money, putting the community at risk. There has been a strong interest in wanting a full cleanup, but for the past 40 years the borough of Ringwood has neglected the community. Any cleanup plan at the Ford Superfund site that does not include removal of all of the contaminated soil and full cleanup of polluted groundwater will not be enough,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Ramapough people of Upper Ringwood are living in a toxic nightmare. The state cannot keep dumping on them. DEP is trying to rush this settlement through as quickly as possible without proper input. That cannot happen. DEP must extend the public comment period and hold a public hearing on this sellout.”

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