Sunday, May 5, 2013

Experiential Journal: Chuck Stead’s Salt Box

By Ben Reuter

I went to the Environmental Research Center on Torne Valley Road in Hillburn, New York for my CEC field work.  The center was built from the ground up by Professor Chuck Stead and his students to conduct ongoing research and documentation of the toxic paint sludge that was dumped in that area by Ford in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

The center is in a renovated ‘saltbox’ building, which is a remembrance of the historical past of Northern New Jersey and the Hillburn area of New York. The iron workers of this area in the colonial times used this building style due to its ability to be easily added onto if more space is needed. Chuck Stead took a saltbox house that was designated for demolition and rebuilt it to modern code to be used as his research center.

Chuck Stead grew up in the Hillburn Mountains and was a trapper through his boyhood years. He says how he remembers seeing the remains of the illegal dumping when he was growing up, and now he has dedicated his time to bringing Ford back to clean up their mess. Stead brings students from high school and college programs, including Ramapo College classes, to help finish the construction of the building as well as do the field studies. Stead and his students have found and marked numerous sites of paint sludge that was dumped throughout the Torne Valley area.

And because of his hard driven trials and tribulations, there is now a massive excavation of contaminated waste being cleaned up in the well field in Torne Valley. With his continued research and determination, Chuck Stead will not stop until the Torne Valley is rid of the toxic paint sludge.

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