Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Toxic Legacy: Mob Aspect

By Vanessa Camargo

A few residents of Greenwood Lake were threatened with death and vandalizing after speaking up about trash-hauling trucks carrying chemicals and medical waste and dumping it into the woods. Those who stood up against this crime faced a disturbing reality with the mob since the truck dumpers were linked to them. This is one of the most disturbing elements in the “Toxic Legacy” investigative report by The Record.

According to this report, Mafia transporters had a firm grasp on industrial waste in New Jersey and New York for over a generation. They would carry the toxic trash from factories like Ford and dump it wherever possible. Authorities discovered how they’re rooted into Superfund sites in New Jersey and New York, which costs taxpayers and corporations millions of dollars in waste cleanups.

The Ford plant in Mahwah had thousands of truck-loads for just paint sludge, which made it the biggest hauling contract in the state. Other opportunities for hauling were presented in the 1970s when 15,000 New Jersey businesses produced industrial waste.

Making toxic waste disappear was easy. Haulers could flush it down sewers or bury it with ordinary garbage. They could also pour it into creeks or abandon it in vacant lots. Ford’s waste was dumped in various locations. Truck drivers were ordered to dump things like paint and solvents along streams. The Record did an investigation and found it in the banks of the Hudson in Edgewater and left behind a college in Wanaque. They also buried it in municipal landfills that were solely allowed to accept domestic garbage.

According to state and federal officials, they had a shortage of people to seek this waste that could possibly be running into waterways, wells, or be around homes and woods. According to congressional testimony, New Jersey produced 1.5 billion gallons of liquid toxic waste and chemical sludges in 1977. It would vanish quickly. Haulers would mix waste oils with industrial chemicals and sold it as fuel to New York schools, hospitals, and apartments during an oil shortage in the early 1970s.

A New Jersey State Police detective, Dirk Ottens, witnessed how these haulers would handle their business. The truck containers would be lined with sawdust to absorb the chemicals. He watched as they poured the waste in and clamped sheets of plywood over loads to keep them from spilling. They also put trash on top so they could carry it out into municipal landfills without being noticed.

In 1976, Congress became stricter with disposal laws. They made paperwork a requirement and started tracking where the hazardous waste ended up. The changes ended up having the opposite effect. It actually made it easier for deceitful garbage companies to make a profit.

In the ‘70s, toxic waste became a growing industry for the mob. For decades they had complete control over the garbage industry. The mafia controlled the haulers. They would intimidate others to reserve property rights. The one who transported to a particular address would now own that location for good. If a guy were to go to someone else’s property they would then face endangering the safety of their lives and truck.

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