Sunday, March 2, 2014

Paint Sludge with your Water?

By Brianne Bishop

If you’re a resident of Mahwah, New Jersey, you most likely know about the Ford Motor Company assembly plant that resided here just off Rt. 17. This was no small factory and was approximately the size of seven football fields. The plant closed down in 1980 after 25 years of business, but remnants of the Ford Motor plant remain in the area. One can only image the degree of pollutants this production chain of vast size contributed.

The remnants of the Ford Motor Company are not the structural components, but rather remains that are more permanent and undesirable to surrounding residents. The paint sludge, which is highly toxic to humans, created a 500-acre Superfund site in neighboring Ringwood, endangering the health of many of the Ramapough Indians who live there, plus other hazardous dump sites along or near the Ramapo River in Hillburn, NY.

The paint sludge consists of lead, arsenic, benzene, and other toxic substances. More of this substance has been exposed after damaging hurricanes such as Irene and Sandy, not to mention numerous floods and other weather patterns have most likely contributed to the exposure of these elements. So why is this concerning? Well, because there are traces of these chemicals in the drinking water.

The Ford company has conducted clean ups of small areas of the Ringwood and Hillburn sites, however there is still more progress to be done. The latest efforts in Hillburn began in February 2013, and still have many years to go until the clean up is complete. The toxic mixture has embedded itself in the riverbank soil. This is a problem because the Ramapo River is a central source of water for New Jersey. If the toxins are in the soil and the soil comes in contact with the water, lead, arsenic, benzene and other toxic substances are present in our drinking water. Thirsty yet?

It is questionable as to when and if Ford will complete this cleanup it has committed to. There was a $10 million settlement with the Ramapough Indians who live in Ringwood. I think that every resident who drinks from the water source that the Ramapo River provides should get compensation too. Those toxic chemicals, if present in drinking water, can cause a number of medical issues and diseases over time. It should be required that residents get their water tested in order to ensure everyone’s safety.

It has been reported that there have not been any official reports of these chemicals present in the water, however, “it is possible that a small amount has washed down,” according to a news article on This leads the reader and residents to believe that an investigation on how this paint sludge has affected the area has not yet been completed. Reporters who have come in contact with the paint sludge have reported how foul smelling the substance is.

It is surprising to learn that the initial clean up did not include the riverbed itself, when it is entirely possibly the sludge could have gotten into the body of water. Ford has been responsible for the cleanup and has been developing a plan of action with the Environmental Protection Agency for dealing with an estimated 30,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil; so far, only 2,000 cubic yards have been cleaned. The goal is to clean up the present paint sludge in order to prevent it from settling on the bottom of the Ramapo River, if it has not done so already.

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