Friday, February 4, 2011

Corporations: Clean-up your Cover-ups

By Deanna Dunsmuir

The left-over Ford sludge in Ringwood, NJ has left many residents and experts with much to ponder: Are certain health problems linked to the debris? Will it ever be able to be removed in its entirety? The Record’s "Toxic Legacy" drew a descriptive picture with its words, explaining how the water that once ran clear is now contaminated with chemicals such as lead, arsenic and xylenes. The report, which shows pictures of the paint sludge as well as victims of its effects, serves as a powerful agenda-setter by reminding the public that the pollution is still there.

"Toxic Legacy" reports that, “Documents reveal that Ford executives knew as early as 34 years ago that its waste has contaminated a stream that feeds Wanaque Reservoir.” With this knowledge the Ford Company tried to not only cover up what they knew, but they presented the polluted land as a gift to the state. The Ford Company’s deceptions grew alongside the vastness of its effects-leading up to its eventual Mob ties.

Years later the story is still making headlines. On Tuesday, Jan. 25, an article appeared in the Record, “Upper Ringwood group hires experts in push for cleanup of old Ford dump.” A federal grant for $50,000 is being used to help determine a course for complete cleanup of the chemical containing sludge.

The Ford Company’s plant in Mahwah had been around since 1955, yet still in the year 2011 companies are still committed to pulling the wool over the eyes of the public when it comes to environmentally damaging waste. The publicized story of the localized Ringwood contamination has happened in small towns across the country, yet companies have not realized that the public wants the truth, not a press release that everything is taken care of. The Gulf oil spill is a noting example of the government and BP claiming that the pollution was under control when in fact the damage can only spread, and with time its effects will be known.

According to The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook, “Who Sets the Environmental Agenda”, a large portion of what the public knows is due to the mass media and the government. A combination of journalists, citizens, press releases and government statements forms what the public knows. It is the job of citizens, journalists and activists to check up on government and company cleanups. Years after Ford has moved out of the Ringwood community the concentrated effort is still being discussed and fought over-proving that the cleanup will always be much more work than the cover-up.

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