Friday, March 4, 2016

More bad news for residents near Ford paint sludge site

A toxic chemical recently discovered at the Ringwood Superfund site is more widespread than previously reported, with high levels found deep in an abandoned mine and low levels detected in brooks and near a pond, according to new data shown to the public Tuesday night by federal environmental officials.

Scott Fallon reports for The Record:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said there is no public health threat from the chemical, 1,4-dioxane, a likely carcinogen, because none of the samples taken over the past year were greater than the agency’s health benchmark.

Many members of the community where Ford Motor Co. dumped an ocean of toxic paint sludge more than 40 years ago remained skeptical of the EPA’s claims during a heated three-hour meeting Tuesday night attended by at least 200 people.

Although the EPA says drinking water is not affected, members of a local Native American tribe say they often fish and drink from the waterways that go through the toxic site. The Ramapoughs say many members have suffered illness and premature death from Ford’s waste, although no link has been proved.

Tests done last year by engineers working for both Ford and the borough government showed widely varying levels of 1,4-dioxane, a chemical whose safety standards are still being determined.

The highest concentration was found deep in the Peters Mine air shaft at 140 micrograms per liter in August. That’s well above the state’s new groundwater standard of 0.4 micrograms but below the EPA’s lifetime health advisory level of 200 micrograms per liter.

Concentrations were lower closer to the surface. Samples taken from test wells west of Sheehan Drive showed a high of 38 micrograms per liter in August but dipped to a high of 17 micrograms per liter in follow-up testing in December.

When scientists tested above ground, they found 1,4-dioxane in several brooks and groundwater seeping to the surface. A high of 2.3 micrograms per liter was detected at one brook that runs through the central portion of the site. It was also detected outside the Superfund site with 0.44 micrograms per liter found in the Park Brook at the mouth of Sally’s Pond, once a popular fishing and swimming hole in Ringwood State Park.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has not yet developed a surface water safety standard for 1,4-dioxane.

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