Ringwood officials have suspended plans to build a recycling center on top of a mountain of contaminated soil at the Ford Motor Co. Superfund site until federal regulators complete an investigation of another dangerous chemical found there recently.
Scott Fallon and Holly E. Stewart report for The Record:
The decision this week by the Borough Council to halt preliminary work on the center was met with cautious optimism by residents who want all 166,000 tons of toxic paint sludge dumped by Ford 50 years ago dug up and hauled away.
The Environmental Protection Agency last year allowed the borough and Ford to move ahead with plans to build the center and a barrier placed over the site, even though the agency had originally required the pollution to be removed.
Proposed by the borough and paid for by Ford, the recycling center at the O'Connor Disposal Area and the barrier have been estimated to cost $6.9 million - $25.7 million less than it would cost to excavate the contamination.
The move upset many nearby residents who say the pollution has made them sick and caused premature death.
The borough had backed the recycling center for more than two years when The Record published articles in February about the discovery of 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, in groundwater and brooks at the site.
The news prompted residents to pack community meetings, where they renewed calls for all of the contaminated material at O'Connor to be hauled away. It also caused Ringwood officials to question whether they should move ahead with a plan that leaves the pollution on site in perpetuity.
"It is troubling to me because [1,4-dioxane] is something new after 30 years of data that has been relatively the same," Borough Manager Scott Heck said Thursday.
The site has long been known to be contaminated with benzene, arsenic and lead, among other contaminants.
While some officials recently expressed doubt on the future of the recycling center, it wasn't until Tuesday night when the Borough Council unanimously approved a resolution that suspended "any work & regarding the recycling center until a complete investigation and understanding of the source of 1,4-dioxane has been determined."
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