In an editorial today, The Record ripped the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the latest in a series of public relations embarrassments related to withheld or delayed public notice of contamination findings at a Superfund site in Ringwood, NJ.
On February 22, Record reporter Scott Fallon disclosed that:
A chemical that is likely to cause cancer has been discovered at almost 100 times the state standard in the groundwater of the Superfund site in Ringwood where Ford Motor Co. dumped tons of toxic paint sludge decades ago.
The chemical — 1,4-dioxane — had not been identified before at the highly polluted site. It was found deep under the Peters Mine area by engineers for Ford, according to documents obtained by The Record.
Its discovery is one of the reasons more test wells are being dug this month to assess whether that chemical or others are migrating from the site, which sits above the Wanaque Reservoir, a drinking source for 3 million people.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, who are overseeing the work, didn’t mention the chemical when asked about the new test wells two weeks ago. They said the wells were to be drilled to “assess benzene contamination” — one of the more widely found pollutants at the site — along with other chemicals that the agency didn’t name.
A spokesman said at the time the EPA team assigned to Ringwood would share specific information at a public meeting scheduled for March 1.
From today's editorial:
WHEN IT comes to the Ringwood Superfund site and the federal response to what has been a decades-long environmental nightmare for local residents, trust has been all but eroded. This week those residents were once more forced to wrap their heads around an instance where they were misled, or not given relevant information in a timely manner, about toxic chemicals in their midst.
As Staff Writer Scott Fallon reported, environmental regulators knew three months ago that a chemical that likely causes cancer was found for the first time at the Superfund site. The chemical — 1,4-dioxane — was discovered in late November at almost 100 times the state standard in the groundwater of the Superfund site where Ford Motor Co. dumped tons of toxic paint sludge decades ago.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "should have called an emergency meeting," said Vincent Mann, chief of the Ramapough Turtle Clan, a Native American tribe that has made the mountain its home for at least 200 years. "I keep saying it over and over and over again, they are leaving the human element out of the management of this site."
EPA officials elected not to inform residents of the finding immediately, they said, because they do not consider the amount of the toxic solvent discovered to be an imminent health threat. Even if you take that explanation at face value, federal officials might have considered total transparency to be good policy, considering that the people who live in and around Upper Ringwood have been dealing with this contamination crisis for 50 years, and have been misled many times before.
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