Friday, February 20, 2015
Toxic Legacy: Uncovering a Buried Hazard
By Samantha Bell
“Toxic Legacy,” the in-depth investigation of contaminated areas in Ringwood, New Jersey, painted a picture of the devastation carelessly caused to the area’s residents by the Ford Motor Company in the 1960s. The report, published in The Record, aimed to open readers’ eyes to the land’s contamination and, more importantly, the innocent lives that were affected by illnesses caused by the contamination.
The investigation of “Toxic Legacy” is more than just a story about environmental justice and toxic contamination; it is a story about raising awareness and not letting devastating events like such go unnoticed and untreated. Not only has the dumping and pollution of toxic chemicals affected the quality of Ringwood’s land, but the population’s health, as well. The group of people that reside in the area of Ringwood that have been contaminated are the Ramapoughs. Growing up in New Jersey, I have heard the story of the Ramapoughs, but knew them as the “Jackson Whites.” Like the “Toxic Legacy” series stated, the community had a reputation for being “ignorant, barbaric and illiterate.” But those views were just that - a reputation.
Many residents of the community believe that Ford dumped up in the mountains because of the Ramapoughs’ reputation. I am in disbelief that this community has been dumped on for years and have grown up in a toxic wasteland. What makes it worse is that some of the paint sludge still remains in these areas. Ford has somehow found ways to get around cleaning up their messes. This ongoing problem is affecting the health of people living on this land. The soil is polluted with toxic chemicals, but they still continue to live on the land because they have no other choice. The water that they need to survive is also contaminated.
The Ramapoughs are struggling with health issues that include various cancers that have unfortunately taken the lives of those from their community. There are learning disabilities amongst the children that may be due to high levels of lead found in the ground. They suffer from ailments such as asthma and skin rashes that lead to low attendance in school.
One thing that does not make much sense is how the dumping of the paint sludge was not made a top priority by the state and EPA officials. The dumping site is not the most wealthy and developed area in northern New Jersey; however, that is no reason why it should be overlooked. The people of this community have been struggling to get more cleanup and removal of the waste for a number of years now.
Even if one is unaware about things taking place in our environment, I believe that it is important to at least take a look at “Toxic Legacy.” The piece hits so close to home and directly affects the areas we live in; it would be a shame to not be educated on the matter. The report is a great way to get others informed or involved about the issues of paint sludge and to show them how real the problem is. It is also important to note that with great persistence and questioning, a difference can still be made.