By Molly Rothberg
"Toxic Legacy” is a newspaper series that examines an industrial waste story where lead, arsenic and solvents that were linked to cancer appeared in lawns and adjacent lands after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared a Ford Motor Company dump site as “clean.” The site, located in Ringwood, N.J. was taken off the national Superfund list and federal officials accepted Ford’s guarantee that they had fully investigated the site and removed the cancer-linking waste. The five-part special series produced by the Bergen Record in Hackensack, N.J. told a different tale after uncovering the real story. The series exposed hazard dumping in a poor community near streams and reservoirs, as well as in other unauthorized sites in New Jersey and New York.
Additionally, the Record took the series to another level in exposing the failure of the government to address the problem. Once The Record published “Toxic Legacy,” the EPA promised to fully clean the area and re-listed it as a Superfund site. The New Jersey governor took action while New York promised to take action on several years of complaints regarding sludge dumps near a water supple river that flows into New Jersey.
This investigative series raises an important question for the residents of Ringwood: How does this toxic tragedy affect them? Additionally, this story is an example on how it shapes the Ringwood community into a different viewpoint for New Jersey and New York residents. The impact of "Toxic Legacy" changes the residents’ perception on how they feel about their community. It’s a serious community environmental issue that is a major hazard to the residents.
Separate from the Ringwood residents, how does it affect the town’s image to people outside of Ringwood? This issue portrays a negative view of Ringwood, as well as the New Jersey and New York state governments, and especially the federal EPA, which declared the 500-acre site as a “clean" site. Many of the Ringwood residents, who pay a lot of money in property taxes each year, must be furious with the government and their extensive process to finally take action. Residents have been at high risk for cancer for years and haven’t known. It’s a huge environmental issue that needs to be widely addressed.