Ringwood residents trying to finish petition on Ford Superfund site
RINGWOOD — With a deadline looming, residents trying to stop the borough’s plan to keep toxic waste at the Ford Superfund site will be out collecting signatures this weekend to force a townwide vote on the issue.
Organizers of the petition said they have until mid-July to turn in about 200 signatures to the borough clerk in support of an ordinance that would bar town officials from building a controversial recycling center on a portion of the Superfund site.
The recycling center proposal is the key piece in determining whether 166,000 tons of contaminated material will be excavated or buried under a barrier at the O’Connor Disposal Area, a former dumping ground for Ford Motor Co. and others off Peters Mine Road. If the town is able to go ahead with the center, polluted soil would remain buried at the site. If the recycling center plan is defeated, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would force the town and Ford to excavate all of it at a cost of $32.6 million compared with $5.4 million for capping.
O’Connor is one of three major areas where Ford contractors dumped a massive amount of paint sludge from its former Mahwah plant nearly 50 years ago.
The Borough Council suspended preliminary work on the recycling center last month, saying they want to wait until the EPA conducts a full investigation into the recent discovery of a dangerous chemical — 1,4-dioxane — in groundwater at the site. The petition’s organizers say the council’s move is only temporary. Their petition would permanently ban the center.
Ringwood is one of about 130 municipalities that operate their government under the Faulkner Act. A provision in the act allows residents to introduce ordinances without any action by their governing body.
To do so, residents have to submit a petition containing signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the voters who participated in the last General Assembly election. If the council doesn’t pass the ordinance, it automatically goes on the November ballot as a public referendum.
Lisa Chiang, who organized the petition, said her group has collected 60 to 70 signatures as of early Friday. “We’re pretty confident we’ll get the amount we need,” she said.
They plan to be at the town’s popular Farmers’ Market this morning at the Park and Ride on Cannici Drive with a booth and banner. They will later head up to the Church of the Good Shepherd on Margaret King Avenue, where many of those who live close to the pollution worship.
Chiang said her group has already applied for grants from environmental organizations to support their measure in what may become a hotly contested battle this fall.