Posts Tagged ‘ringwood’

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.

Ford payouts don’t make up for the damage they inflicted

Anyone who lives in the Bergen County area knows that Ford Motor company screwed the town of Ringwood and the indian tribe that lives there. Over a period of 3 decades they dumped paint and toxic sludge into old mines and sometimes along the sides of the roads in Ringwood. The materials came from a car manufacturing plant that was in Ramsey at the time and has long since closed down. As local residents became sick with all manner of illnesses, eventually Ford admitted what they did and made a token effort at cleaning up what was now designated a Superfund site.

As years progressed and lawsuits were filed, nothing more was done until an award winning series of articles was published by the Bergen Record in 2006. That spurred action by the EPA and promises of arrests and fines by the prosecutors. Fast forward to 2010. There’s still sludge in the mines and it likely will never be properly remediated. Ford settled the lawsuits, but anyone expecting to be fully compensated for the loss of loved ones and the suffering caused by cancer and other illnesses was dissapointed. The settlements ranged between 5K and 35K per person.

Words can’t express how inadequate this is. It’s a testament to how toothless our government can be at times. Ford didn’t just flaunt the law, they ruined hundreds of people’s lives and left an area that is basically unihabitable. They killed numerous people and in the end, heres a few grand, sorry about the cancer, kthxbye? The punishment that Ford received is a joke. The fact that they will be allowed (for a 2nd time) to walk away without fully fixing the situation is criminal.

Maybe they should use the Ford logo as the official state superfund logo.

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.

The Ramapo Mountain People

The Ramapo Mountain people are people who in live the hills in the Ramsey-Ringwood area. They claim to be descendants of Lenape Indians (specifically the Ramapough Indian tribe), and although they have applied for benefits that are given to Indian tribes, they have been turned down several times. Apparently the families do have Indian blood in them, but it is mixed with blacks, slaves, and Hessians and this invalidates their claims requesting indian tribe status.

There are numerous rumors and stories surreounding these people, most of them unflattering. There are some things that can be stated with certainty. Many of the people in this community are very poor, some of them allegedly have no electricity or running water. There are also many many health problems stemming from decades of illegal dumping of toxic materials by mobsters and the Ford motor company. There is a strong sense of community and distrust of outsiders. This attitude, coupled with their remote location in the hills, and their lower economic status has led many to look at them as hillbillies or backwoods people.

Most people knew very little about these people until they were featured in an article in Weird NJ in the mid 1990’s. The article touched off a firestorm for several reasons. The article refered to them as Jackson Whites, which to them is the equivilent of calling a black person a nigger. As often happens with anything printed in Weird NJ, the article made it’s way around, eventually finding its way into the hands of local radio station Z-100. The morning dj’s read the article on the air which only caused more controversy as more people learned about them and took the story as gospel. It should be noted that the basis for the article was an article written by a “researcher” many years ago, which also prompted controversy. The article was fairly balanced in what it said, presenting both side of the argument.

So who are “Ramapo Mountain people”? What is their true background? No one can say for sure exactly.

The people who live there have been the subject of numerous news articles over the last 10 years. Lately they have been in the news because there was a Ford plant that operated nearby about 4 decades ago. There was a lot of illegal dumping of paint and toxic chemicals in the old mines around the area. The area had been labeled a Superfund Site at one time but the area was deemed clean. After many years of residents complaining about strange illnesses, odd smells, brown water, and finding paint sludge in their yards, the EPA & Ford have come back and new cleanups have begun. There is no doubt that the horrible health problems that afflict so many of the residents are due to exposure to hazzardous chemicals. There have also been troubles with sinkholes, some of which have caused homes to be condemned. Finally there was a fatal shooting of a local resident by a park officer, which touched off a firestorm of controvery over police brutality.

I have not visited the area yet for several reasons. First, I want to do my own research. I’ll start by reading the book by David Cohen called “The Ramapo Mountain People”. Mr Cohen researched their history and appears to have covered it pretty well. I’ve received emails from local residents criticizing the book, others have supported it. There’s some other things I want to check out too, like the state of NJ’s report of the validity of their efforts to be formally recognized as an indian tribe. If I go up there without knowing the real history, I’m asking for trouble.

Some readers have emailed me and offered to let me meet the tribal leaders. I intend to take them up on the offer some day. Unfortunately this entire site has been suffering from a lack of attention, and as I re-wrote this page in December 2008 to clarify what is and isn’t known. I am not trying to perpetuate any myths or local tall tales.

Below are some emails I’ve received. I will not censor what other people say. Some of them do refer to the residents as JW, and I know that word bothers them. I understand that, and I don’t think people should call them that. I don’t know these readers and only print them to show what some people have thought or said about them.