Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ringwood Mines Superfund Site: What’s Left to Do?

By Candace Mitchell

The two–mile-long by half-mile-wide Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund Site has had its ups and downs. Since the 1700s the land has undergone different uses, from iron mining to illegal dumping of waste products followed by a series of clean ups, and has been listed and delisted as an official Superfund site. However, the story is far from over. The Superfund site in Ringwood has been on and off the radar of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and although there have been a host of clean ups, the site is currently under reinvestigation, an investigation that has been “ongoing” since December 2004, according to the EPA’s website.

History of Site

According to the EPA fact sheet, the site was originally a mine in the 1700s until it closed in 1931. From 1967 to 1974 the land was used by Ford Motor Company to deposit various waste products including car parts, solvents and paint sludge. A 290-acre portion of the land was later donated to the Ringwood Solid Waste Management Authority, which began using it as a landfill in 1972 until it was closed in 1976.

Cleanups: Round One

The original Ford cleanups occurred from 1987-1990. According to the EPA, Ford removed 7,000 cubic yards and 727 tons of pain sludge, along with 61 drums of toxic waste.

To Be or Not To Be a Superfund Site

Ringwood Mines was originally declared a Superfund site in 1983, according to the EPA. After a series of Ford cleanups, the EPA declared job well done and delisted the site in 1994. It was largely the work of an 85-signature petition submitted by the Ringwood Neighborhood Action Association (RNAA) on November 15, 2004 that got the site back on the EPA’s map, according to the New Jersey Environmental Justice Task Force’s (EJTJ) statement of findings. The petition stated that toxic sludge was still visible in the yards of some of the 550 people living in the area that was formerly the Ringwood Mines Superfund site.

The issue was further raised by an investigative series in The Record in 2005 called “Toxic Lrgacy.” After reviewing the petition, the EJTJ suggested that the site be relisted as a Superfund site, that the EPA monitor the cleanup and that the Department of Health and Senior Services develop a public health assessment.

Cleanups: Round Two

After additional paint sludge was found in the area, Ford began a second series of cleanups under the supervision of the EPA. According to the EPA’s website, Ford has removed an additional 53,528 tons of paint sludge, drum remnants and associated soil since December 2004.

Ongoing Investigation

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) contracted the Louis Berger Group, Inc. to perform site-specific Remedial Investigations of 47 residential properties at the Ringwood Mines Landfill site. In July 2014, the EPA released a cleanup plan estimated to cost $44.8 million. The plan is to be conducted and paid for by Ford and the Borough of Ringwood, and supervised by the EPA. The plan will remove contaminated soil from the opening of Peter’s Mine Pit and cap it ($11 million project), cap Cannon Mine Pit ($1.3 million project) and excavate the O’Connor Disposal Area ($32.6 million), according to The Record.

What’s Left?

Under the EPA’s current plan, contaminated soil will still remain in the 500-acre Ringwood Superfund site even after the $45 million cleanup.  In order to follow through on their plan of completely clearing the site, Ford would need to excavate and haul away nearly 166,000 tons of contaminated waste from the O’Connor Disposal Area, according to The Record.

However, the 166,000 tons of waste may not all be taken care of due to a small caveat: if the borough is able to create a plan, they will be permitted to instead construct a new recycling center over the former disposal area, forming a cap over the contaminated soil rather than removing it. This would cut the cleanup cost from $32.6 million to $5.3 million, according to The Record.

The Record also reported that the plan will also leave about 70,000 tons of contaminated material in Peter’s Mine Pit, clearing about 22,000 of the estimated 92,000 tons of contaminated material, and the 5-acre Cannon Mine area will be capped, covering all of the estimated 46,000 tons of contamination, but excavating none of it.

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