By Michael-Thomas Marciante
While reading Toxic Legacy, a special report on the Ford Motor Company’s ruthless pollution of lead paint and toxic chemicals into the Ramapo Mountain community, I found that the involvement of the criminal element was incredibly grotesque. The trucks would pour into the area, one by one, each carrying gallons of poison. In the distance, from the mist of the northern Jersey Mountains, the trucks would return empty, the poison had gone, but not for a small population Ramapo residents. The people of the Ramapo Mountain town were left to deal with this environmental destruction, poisoned land, and a pile of medical faults and bills.
First off, the environmental damage done the environment due to the dumping of toxic material into the Ramapo Mountain area was so vast and diverse that it is almost irrevocable. It takes a lot of materials to make a car: heated steel, chemical equipment used to make the frame, poisons poured on the car to protect it; all of these have afterbirths. These hazardous remains are put into steel drums and into trucks, where these damaging excretions kill all its way. Not just plant or animal life, but causing disastrous health risks for human life. Extending just beyond the border of New York, families live much shorter and sadder due to this event. This terrible event would cause one to bear in mind: who would do something so cruel?
The Ford Motor Company, responsible for making thousands of cars, in Mahwah, New Jersey. They spent an overwhelming amount of money to dispose of this illegal waste and payment of this illegal tax was significantly more expensive that of a blue collar crimes. During the 1970’s, the U.S. government put up laws preventing major corporations from dumping their waste into estranged areas in the United States. The Ford Company complied with these laws, in that they themselves did not dump the toxic waste into the Ramapo Mountains, but they enlisted the help of criminal sources to do their dirty work for them. The Italian mafia became the number one distributer of toxic waste for Ford. It’s hard to imagine that other criminal outlaws would also help dispose of major hazardous chemicals for major corporations other than the Ford Car Company. On a Federal Bureau of Investigation wire tap of the Italian mob, one member was quoted specifically on the money received, “We’re making more money on toxic waste than we’re making on heroin.”
The article also goes into great description of the fear of the mafia that was inflicted upon town’s people. It begins with a humanitarian story of Robert Constant, a long time resident of the Ramapo area, complained many times about what was being done, was advised to be silent about it. The Italian-American mafia has always been portrayed as a violent, family oriented and close minded group of greedy individuals. These images are usually media tainted stereotypes of actual people, however their lies truth in many understandings of this criminal underworld. Terrorism, racketeering, and murder are just a few weapons used to control any and all means of legal and illegal income. One reported incident of a Ringwood resident who found their car sabotaged after they openly voiced indifference to what was being dumped into their homes.
The results of the illegal dumping of toxic material have not only involved very ethical issues, but sociological ones as well. Outside of the gated communities, the dwindling Old Italian neighborhoods, and somewhere just north of the liberal school known as Ramapo College, there is a community of people with Native American heritage. The Van Dunk family, who has heard the trucks rumbling in the distance, knowing poisonous danger was approaching just outside the distance, has mixed heritage. It seems that the location was picked due the race of these people who live in the Ramapo area. Would it be a stretch to assume this act was racially motivated?
The future suffers for the ignorance of the past.