Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Toxic Legacy: Failure of the Government

By Jamie Bachar

After reviewing “Toxic Legacy” in class and on my own, the part that stuck out with me most was the complete lack of interest or care by the Department of Environmental Protection and the state of New Jersey.

In one of the articles it was reported that Wayne Mann, the president of his neighborhood association, and Jeff Tittel, the executive director of the Sierra Club in New Jersey, both showed the DEP sites where the paint sludge was prominent but was ignored on many occasions throughout numerous decades.

There were public records that showed that federal officials at the EPA repeatedly let Ford walk away from thousands of tons of industrial waste dumped in Ringwood. They let this happen while officials and private reports told them of widespread contamination in specific locations.

The government failed New Jersey and the Ringwood residents so many times for so many years. They let Ford do what ever they wanted and didn’t hold them accountable for anything that they did and more importantly what they did not do. For example Ford never had to submit shipping documents to the EPA detailing how much waste was dumped. Nor did they leave maps showing where the dumping occurred yet they allowed Ford to restrict its initial cleanup efforts in Ringwood to four small areas, dismissing almost a decade of state and private reports of sludge dumped all over the woods. The EPA didn’t even care that Ford was planning such a minimal cleanup. The EPA even had the gall to report to the citizens of Ringwood that site was completely cleared in 1988.

What is worse is that the government knew what implications were had by not cleaning up the dump sites. It was well-known that the sludge posed a long-term threat to the nearby Wanaque Reservoir, an important source of drinking water. Not only that but the effects the paint sludge have had on the Ramapough  people. They have been the most affected by the dumped paint sludge. They are living among the waste and have been exposed to so many toxins there is no telling what health effects have resulted from it. There have been reports of cancers,  learning disabilities, asthma, and many more health problems.

The government failed this community and all of New Jersey by ignoring the problem for so many years. I am not surprised that a large company like Ford would lie to protect itself and its money. But the DEP was created to prevent large companies like Ford from endangering people. This was a complete lack of judgment by New Jersey’s government.

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