Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ramapo Environmental Education Center Open House


Chuck Stead
Environmental Educator at Cornell
Cooperative Extension of Rockland County

Saltbox Environmental Education Center Open House

Hillburn, New York– There will be an open house at the Saltbox Environmental Research Center (ERC) on Torne Valley Road on May 19 from 10-3 pm, as part of the Rockland County Solid Waste Authority's Annual Environmental Day.

The Saltbox, a iron worker’s house from 1798, will be a field research center for studying the long-term impact of the contamination from Ford Motor Company’s paint sludge from its former assembly plant in Mahwah that was dumped in the Ramapo valley in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) of Rockland County, Ramapo College, and Chuck Stead created a program to construct, restore, and design the Saltbox ERC on a plot of land owned by the Town of Ramapo.

After so many years since their unauthorized dumping, Ford will soon finish their first phase of sludge cleanup in Ramapo. Since January 2013, Ford has cleaned up 30,000 tons of paint sludge along the Ramapo River near Torne Mountain. The paint waste contains lead and various hazardous chemicals such as benzene.

In 2010, Stead requested permission to move the 200-year-old two-story Dutch barn building from a nearby site in a former ironworkers’ community in Hillburn, NY. In three years, students, interns and volunteers have rebuilt the saltbox-style house. A Ramapough Indian medicine garden will be created on the property, as well as an acre of sweetgrass for basket weaving.

 “My students are going to have a living classroom of remediation,” said Stead, an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Ramapo College and environmental educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland County.
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-- Jaimie Moscarello

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