By Jaimie Moscarello
I remember seeing pictures in the Bergen Record from the “Toxic Legacy” report when I was in high school, showing car parts where car parts shouldn’t be. Like many people in the area, I’ve known about the Ford plant dumping toxic waste and about the people whose lives were negatively affected by it, but in the past eight years I haven’t found out any more information and I haven’t done anything about it.
After our first class, I had to know more. I watched the HBO documentary, Mann vs. Ford. I couldn’t believe what had happened and it was even scarier that it happened so close to where I grew up.
There are so many parts of the report that are terrifying -- the diseases of the people, the negligence of Ford and the EPA, the toxic waste in drinking water and the mafia’s involvement with the dumping. To me, what’s even more terrifying is how close this all takes place to me and how little I knew about it before this class.
In Mann vs. Ford, doctors come to check the health of the Ramapough people who reside in Upper Ringwood. They couldn’t report on people older than 65 years old because so few people in that age bracket are still alive, which the residents feel is because of the toxic waste. During our first class, Professor Crumb told us that many of the Ramapough people have the same diseases as Vietnam veterans have from toxic waste. Part of the documentary that really stood out to me was when hired attorney Vicki Gilliam walked around a neighborhood with an Upper Ringwood resident. The resident pointed at every house saying someone in that house has cancer or someone who lived in that house died of cancer.
One piece of the puzzle that stands out most to me is how the EPA declared the site a superfund site and cleaned part of the site and took it off the site list. The EPA had to come back because they didn’t finish their job, and put the site back on the superfund list. If they were negligent at one site, who is to say they weren’t at others?
Another scary piece is that Ford dumped toxic waste into the mineshaft on their property. There’s a body of water, mixed with waste, covering the shaft. We don’t know if the door to the mine is open or closed, and we don’t know how much more waste there is.
All of this takes place within a 15-minute drive from the Ramapo College campus.
My biggest reaction to “Toxic Legacy” was how close and how horrific the effects of the Ford plant are 33 years after its closing. News reporting is so important to cases like this because if no one investigated the story, nothing would have been done.