Citizens get Superfund cleanup plan on agenda in Ringwood

RINGWOOD — A petition submitted by a citizens group in Ringwood will force the borough council to consider scrapping plans to build a new recycling center at a Superfund site and remove contaminated soil from the area instead.

The petition gathered a sufficient number of signatures to place a proposed ordinance on the agenda for a public hearing at the council’s meeting on Aug. 2, according to documents posted at the borough’s website.

The site in question, known as the O’Connor Disposal Area, was part of an iron mining district used in the 1960s and ’70s by the Ford Motor Co. to dump paint sludge and office waste generated at its Mahwah plant. Ford closed the plant in 1980.

The proposed ordinance calls for a commitment to “full remediation of the O’Connor Disposal Area and the contaminated water in the Peter’s and Cannon mines.”

Under the proposed ordinance, the borough would withdraw its request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to permit capping of the area in order to build a recycling center at the site.

Instead, the focus would be on excavating contaminated soil, with 166,000 tons presently at the site, according to an account in The Record.

The proposed ordinance says the contamination has had a “significant adverse impact” on borough residents and on members of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation, a Native American tribe that lives in the area.

Officials used outdated tests at Ringwood Superfund site, report says 1,4-dioxane – a probable carcinogen that can damage the liver, kidney and respiratory system – was at about 60 times the state standard at the Ringwood Superfund site by the borough..

Also, the ordinance says, the EPA, in a 2014 decision, said its “preferred remedy” for the O’Connor area is “removal of fill for an off-site disposal” resulting in a “full remediation.”

The water emanating from Peter’s and Cannon mines is contaminated with many dangerous chemicals, including 1,4 Dioxane that was discovered last year, adding to the hazards, the proposal says.

After hearing public comments on the issue at the meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. on Aug. 2, the council is expected to vote on the proposal right away, but if the plan is rejected, it will automatically be placed on the November election ballot for a townwide referendum, according to The Record.

The Ford site was added to the EPA’s National Priorities List in 1983 and taken off in 1994 after some 12,000 tons of harmful material were removed. But tons of toxic paint sludge remained, and federal officials re-listed the site in 2006 under mounting pressure.

Resident Lisa Chiang, a leader of the drive to remove the contaminated soil, gathered support for the petition via her Facebook page.

Chiang told The Record this week, “We want to get a lot of people out at the hearing to show how much this town wants this pollution gone.”

Chiang was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Ringwood Mayor John Speer, Deputy Mayor James Martocci and Borough Manager Scott Heck did not respond to requests for comment.

Ben Horowitz may be reached at

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