Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ringwood (NJ) Superfund ballot question ruled invalid

Ringwood voters will not get the chance to decide whether 166,000 tons of contaminated soil will be excavated from the Ford Superfund site or left in place, after a judge ruled Friday that a proposed ballot question by residents was invalid.

Scott Fallon reports for The Record:

Passaic County Assignment Judge Ernest Caposela said the 244-word question calling for the excavation of the pollution was so “unintelligible” that it would confuse the average voter.


A gate at the end of Peters Mine Road in Ringwood, blocking access to a federal Superfund site.

“I can’t rewrite the question,” he  said near the end of an hour-long hearing in his Paterson courtroom. “I can’t provide an explanatory statement.”

The judge said that if the ballot question was approved by voters on Election Day, it would have breached a contract between the borough and Ford Motor Co. that would cost local taxpayers millions of dollars.

Ringwood Cares, a group of residents who wrote the ballot question, said it would appeal Caposela’s decision — a move that would have to be done quickly because Passaic County prints Election Day ballots on Sept. 29.

Those who say the pollution must be hauled away to ensure public health are opposed by the Borough Council and others who say placing an asphalt barrier over the pollution will limit residents’ exposure and avoid a multimillion-dollar cleanup bill for taxpayers.

The pollution dates back almost 50 years to when contractors for Ford dumped paint sludge and other industrial waste from its former Mahwah plant next to a low-income neighborhood in the mountains of Upper Ringwood.

Along with Ford, the borough is liable to pay for a portion of the cleanup because Ringwood officials allowed the dumping to occur in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Removing the contamination would cost $32.6 million. The borough supports a cheaper $5.4 million plan that would place an asphalt barrier over the pollution with a new recycling center on top at the O’Connor Disposal Area.

Read the full story here

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