Pollutants dumped by Ford Motor Co. and others have led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restore the Ringwood mines and landfill to the Superfund National Priorities List of the country's most-contaminated sites.
Ringwood, in nearby New Jersey, is one of several sites, which include Hillburn and other places in Ramapo, where toxic paint sludge and other contaminants have been found.
EPA Region 2 Director Alan J. Steinberg said yesterday that the action was taken because additional contamination had been found since the site was removed from the list several years ago.
"I made a commitment to the community that this site would be put back on the Superfund list, and this is the last step in that process," Steinberg said in a prepared statement.
The EPA has told Ford to renew cleanup of the site, which has led to investigations of the ground water, surface water and sediment and the removal of more than 17,000 tons of waste. Steinberg said the probes would help identify additional contaminated areas not visible from the surface or through ground water sampling around the site.
The Ringwood mines and landfill are in a historic iron-mining district in Passaic County. The site covers 500 acres and includes abandoned mine shafts, pits, an inactive landfill and open-waste dumps.
Ford operated an auto assembly plant in nearby Mahwah, N.J., from the mid-1950s until 1980. It dumped industrial waste from the plant around the area for years, including at the Ringwood and Ramapo sites.
In January, more than 700 current and former Ringwood residents - including many members of the Ramapough Mountain Indian tribe - joined in a lawsuit against the company. They seek as much as $2 billion in property damages, personal injury compensation, medical monitoring and punitive damages, according to published reports.
Some of the sludge has also been found on land that Ramapo purchased to use as parkland in the Torne Valley. Town officials want that site and others cleaned up by Ford and have been in talks with the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Ramapo Riverkeeper, Geoff Welch, has found sludge in other nearby areas in Ramapo, including near the river, a source of drinking water for 2 million people in Rockland, Bergen and Passaic counties.
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