Water Commission Report Raises Ringwood Superfund Alarm Bell
Sierra Club Asks for Investigation and Oversight Hearings
A new report for the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission has confirmed that the presence of carcinogenic chemicals at the Ford Superfund Site in Ringwood could contaminate the Wanaque Reservoir. The report says that the 1,4 dioxane found in the groundwater at the Superfund Site needs to be treated to ensure it doesn’t migrate to the reservoir, which is just a mile away. This could contaminate the drinking water that serves as many as 3.5 million people. We have asked Senator Bob Gordon, chair of the Assembly Legislative Oversight to have a hearing on the Ford Superfund site and 1,4 dioxane as well as invite the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission to testify on this potential threat to the Reservoir. We have also asked Assemblyman McKeon and Senator Greenstein to hold a Joint Task Force hearing on Drinking Water regarding this contamination.
“This report should be a wake-up call to the EPA and Ringwood. When the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission believes that 1,4 dioxane is a serious threat to the Reservoir, then the alarm bells should go off. This is because any threat to the Wanaque Reservoir is a threat to everyone. The Commission rarely gets involved in issues, but when they do they are important like pushing for the Highlands Act and preserving Sterling Forest. When they say there is a problem, other agencies need to listen,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Ringwood Superfund site might be a risk to the reservoir, but we already know it is a risk to the Ramapough community. This is why the EPA must stop the plan to build a Recycling Center on this toxic site and cap pollution, which will fail. Otherwise we need to buy people out and protect the people living nearby from this toxic nightmare.”
The report recommends that a system be built soon to pump contaminated groundwater to the surface and decontaminate it. For the past 40 years the Ramapough people have been dealing with a toxic nightmare, but the EPA has failed to clean-up this site. In 2016 findings that showing high levels of 1,4 dioxane and other toxins that are spreading into new areas. In Peters Mine Pit AOC, groundwater samples found 1,4-dioxane above its New Jersey Interim Generic Groundwater Quality Criterion (NJISGWQC) of 0.4 ug/L in 17 samples. 1,4-dioxane comes from the paint sludge Ford dumped at the site in the 1960s and 1970s. The Groundwater was tested above its respective New Jersey Groundwater Quality Standard (NJGWQS) for benzene, a known carcinogen and above its NJIGGWQC for chloroethane.
“EPA has mishandled the Ringwood Superfund site from the beginning and as a result the Ramapough people have been threatened with toxic contamination. Now that they have found more 1,4 Dioxane and other carcinogens at the Peters Mine, Sally’s Pond, and O’Connor Disposal Area, there is a concern it might contaminate the drinking water for over 3.5 million people. This is a huge threat to the Reservoir, but the Ramapough community has already suffered from Ford’s contamination for far too long. The 1,4 Dioxane and other toxins are carcinogenic. Ford’s contamination has continued to leach into our water and environment. However, for over 40 years, EPA has been more concerned about saving money for Ford than protecting the public health of the Ramapough people,” said Jeff Tittel.
The EPA found that 1,4-dioxane is more likely to cause cancer than previously thought: Cancer could occur in one person out of 1 million exposed to 0.35 milligrams per liter of the chemical over a lifetime. However, the federal government has yet to develop a national standard for the chemical in water supplies. These findings make it even more important for EPA to remove all of the 160,000 tons of toxic pollution.
“While this pollution is spreading into new areas, public health and the environment is clearly at risk. 1,4-dioxane is a cancer-causing substance and it’s still present throughout the Ford Superfund Site. Since the North Jersey Water Supply Commission is Ringwood’s largest taxpayer and water supplier, they need to start listening to them. With the Commission sending out this warning, has Ringwood tested their wells to make sure it hasn’t moved even further?” said Jeff Tittel.
This report shows the EPA needs follow through with their original clean-up plan. The Record of Decision states that if a Recycling Center is not build Ford will have to clean-up the entire site rather than cap it. The capping plan was a way to save Ford $40 million. This plan isn’t moving forward and now Ford should pay to clean up the site. We question the use of a cap because we don’t believe it will work, especially with the amount of contaminated groundwater.
“EPA cannot move forward with capping this contamination because it will continue the toxic nightmare for the people of Ringwood. Caps can be cracked and destroyed by buildings or sewer lines; unleashing toxic materials and gases. Metals can leach from the contaminated site and end up in our drinking water. The current plan is basically placing an asphalt overtop the hazardous materials and will eventually fail,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “We need a full and complete clean-up, not a cap that will keep toxins in the ground. Not only are the Ramapough people suffering from Ford’s contamination, toxins from this site could potentially leach into the Wanaque Reservoir, which provides drinking water for three million people. That is why we have asked the legislature to take action and have an oversight hearing to follow through on this report and ensure EPA makes Ford clean-up this contamination.”
A meeting on this report will be held today at 7 p.m. in Tuxedo Park, New York, at the NYU Institute of Environmental Medicine, 57 Old Forge Road.
Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100