Posts Tagged ‘epa’

State recommends blood tests for lead poisoning but few show up

The state recommended that residents of Upper Ringwood, especially children, get tested for lead poisoning because of the contaminaton left there decades ago by the Ford Motor company. Several remediation efforts have removed thousands of tons of chemical waste but their presence has left high levels of chemical residue in the ground. High rates of cancer and other illnesses among local residents lead to concerns of lead poisoning, and the recomendation for testing. Unfortunately, few showed up for the testing last week.

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Ford and Ringwood residents reach a tenative deal over dumping

Amount of the settlement not revealed

Attorneys for Upper Ringwood residents have reached a tentative settlement with Ford Motor Co. in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the auto giant for dumping toxic waste in the neighborhood more than four decades ago, according to a document obtained by The Record. Terms of the settlement were not released by the attorneys, and residents said on Friday they have not been told any details.But a letter from their lawyers sent to state Superior Court Judge Jonathan Harris in Bergen County this week asked for a four-week stay in court proceedings to finish the “tentative global settlement” and get the signatures of all the plaintiffs.

“I don’t know what the dollar amount is, but our attorneys took a risk representing us, so what they get us – so be it,” resident Vivian Milligan said as she dressed to attend a wake for another community member. “This wasn’t about the money. It’s about what Ford did to us.” The deal will include an agreement with Ringwood, which was also named in the suit for allowing Ford to dump. But borough officials, like all the attorneys involved with the suit, declined to talk specifics.

“I can’t talk about the amount, but the borough should have full coverage for the settlement from our insurance carriers,” said Mayor Walter Davison. The attorneys’ letter, dated April 15, was sent by Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C., part of a self-described A-Team of lawyers that represents the residents. It is unclear how much money the attorneys will receive from the settlement.

The New York City-based firm teamed up with Robert Kennedy Jr.’s New York practice, The Cochran Firm based in Alabama and the community’s original lawyers, Catalano & Plache of Washington, D.C., to force Ford to pay for health problems and property damages the residents’ blame on the contamination. The suit didn’t ask for a specific amount but at the time it was filed, attorneys were talking about seeking $2 million per plaintiff.

Matthew Plache, who has represented the residents for over five years, would only offer, “We’re pleased that this community has benefited from the focus and attention of so many in our efforts to bring them justice.” Cancer, asthma, and skin rashes plague the mountain neighborhood and many say it is from walking, playing and inhaling the toxins. As children, they rubbed the multi-colored sludge on their faces, slid down hillsides of it, and squished it between their fingers. More than 600 residents, including hundreds of members of the state-recognized Ramapough Mountain Indian tribe, signed on to sue Ford.

Ford’s stance has been there is no way to prove the waste caused the illnesses. The company said much of the damage could be from lifestyle choices such as smoking. For a while, community advocates talked about having Ford pay to move everyone out of the neighborhood. But some, anchored to the land by generations of tradition, said they wouldn’t move. Then, as the economy sagged and Ford’s financial future looked shaky, a simple payout became more likely, said sources knowledgeable about the case but who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A mass tort lawsuit is normally settled with a neutral party brought in to decide how much each plaintiff gets. Those who have lived in the community longer and have more serious health ailments will most likely get a larger amount than those who lived in the neighborhood briefly. To many residents, a settlement is vindication. “This shows we’re not crazy, it wasn’t all in our minds: Ford poisoned us,” Milligan said. The suit, filed in January 2006, bounced back and forth between state and federal court before ending in state court, and depositions were underway. But because every plaintiff had to be deposed, it appeared the suit would drag on for years.

Ford spokesman Jon Holt confirmed that “settlement discussions are underway” but declined to talk about the case. Ford dumped swaths of lead-based paint sludge, solvents, and other industrial trash over acres of woodlands in the Upper Ringwood neighborhood and nearby Ringwood State Park. The company has been cleaning the area steadily since 2004 and, periodically before that when waste was discovered going back to the 1980’s.

The area was listed as a federal Superfund cleanup site until 1994 when the federal Environmental Protection Agency, relying on Ford’s assurances of an adequate cleanup, de-listed it. Subsequent resident complaints about mysterious illnesses and remaining piles of visible pollution led to intervention by environmental groups and state and federal lawmakers. The EPA, conceding it erred in its de-listing of the site, has re-listed it as a Superfund site. Since 2004, Ford has removed an additional 35,000 tons of toxic waste. The Record has documented the pollution case in its continuing Toxic Legacy series, first published in 2004.

middlesex beach shut down for next 5-10 years because of the lead contamination

and of course locals are ticked off

The Environmental Protection Agency is shutting down 1.3 square miles of coastal property, much of it along Raritan Bay, because dangerous levels of lead were found in the soil. EPA officials said they would post 4-by-4-foot, bilingual notices warning of the threat posed by contamination, and will install split-rail fences restricting access to the western jetty near Cheesequake Creek in Old Bridge, at a small beach north of the jetty in Sayre ville, at the Laurence Harbor sea wall in Old Bridge and at Marga ret’s Creek to the south.

“Our plan is to post signs — very aggressive signs, with strict language on it — explaining exactly what the threat is,” EPA project manager J. Daniel Harkay told about 100 people at the Old Bridge Environmental Commission meet ing on Wednesday night. The EPA said the signs will read: “Public health hazard/ Sand sediment and water contaminated with high levels of lead/ Access to the beach and sea wall located behind these signs is restricted/ No swimming/ No sunbathing/ No fishing.” The bills also note that expo sure to lead can be especially harmful to children and pregnant women.

The federal officials who spoke Wednesday said they did not know when, how or even if the sites would be cleaned up. Pressed again and again by angry residents who wanted a timeline for when some sort of re mediation might be done, Joseph D. Rotola, the agency’s regional Removal Action Branch chief, acknowledged that the sites could be closed for five to 10 years — maybe longer; he doesn’t really know. Pat Seppi, who will be the EPA’s public liaison, tried to calm the group. “Even working with the EPA, we get frustrated about the length of time,” Seppi said.

Right now, the agency is only in a position to close the areas, notify the public about the danger and continue to look into the extent of the contamination, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Totman. “That’s why we’re investigating the scope of this,” she said yesterday. She said the agency does not have a time frame for when it might be considered for the Superfund list, which would make the site eligible for federal cleanup funds. She said there would be a better picture of what will take place in the next month or two. “We’re in the very preliminary stages on this,” said Totman.

Dozens of people spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. Some, like Rich Peterson, feared closing the sites for any length of time could spell disaster for Old Bridge and Sayreville, which have businesses that cater to fisherman and others who visit the no-swimming beaches. “I can’t see waiting around 10 years,” said the Elizabeth man, who fishes there. “People will organize. People will protest. … People will go bankrupt. People will have bad things happen in their lives.” The EPA reported the danger last month after receiving test re sults indicating very high levels of lead.

Rotola, the removal action chief, said Wednesday that residentially allowable amounts of lead measure 400 parts per million. At the western jetty near Cheesequake Creek, the highest levels found were 198,000 parts per million — nearly 500 times the residential limit and about 20 percent lead. The average in the area was 52,399 parts per million. The jetty’s size depends on the tide, but is about 755 feet long and 20 to 30 feet wide. At the Laurence Harbor sea wall area, the range of lead sampled was as high as 142,000 parts per million. The sea wall is about 2,345 feet long.

At the half-acre beach area in Sayreville, just north of the Cheesequake Creek jetty, the range of lead sampled was the same as at the jetty — as high as 142,000 parts per million. The Margaret’s Creek site, which is a remote location not frequented by people, is being added to the list at the state Department of Environmental Protection’s request. The DEP began testing wet lands in Old Bridge about two years ago when the township was looking to sell property, Ed Put nam, the DEP’s assistant director of the publicly funded remediation program, said last month.

A 1972 memo from National Lead Industries, which had a paint manufacturing facility in Old Bridge, indicates the company used the area to dispose of spent cases from acid/lead batteries. Because National Lead refused to help with the cleanup, the DEP turned the case over to the EPA in September, Putnam said. State health experts at Wednesday’s meeting said lead, built up in the blood stream over time, can cause brain damage, kidney failure, diminished intelligence and other issues. Children are much more at risk for absorbing lead than adults, as are pregnant women because of changed metabolism. The metal can be detected with blood tests.