Citizens of 'Sludge City' File Lawsuit Against Ford Over Toxic Waste

So why are locals reluctant to cooperate? They have a general distrust of the government. The explanation goes back to 1983, when Ringwood was deemed so contaminated it was put on the EPA's superfund list. Ford was directed to clean up the area.

In 1994, 11 years later, Ford told the EPA the cleanup was done. It reported that the water was clean and the EPA agreed. Ringwood was removed the superfund list, but not all residents were happy about that.

Bob Spiegel soon brought the story to the local paper. Reporter Jan Barry and a team from The Record of New Jersey worked for years piecing together the story of what had happened in Ringwood.

"So we did our own investigation and went and looked at the original field reports from the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] and the EPA from the early '80s as to why they created a superfund site," Barry said. "They indicated where they saw paint sludge. I went out with a camera and found paint sludge in the same places. It was still there."

CLICK HERE for The Record of New Jersey's complete coverage.

EPA Head: Ringwood Site 'a Tragedy'

In spite of what both Ford and the EPA had said, Ringwood was still contaminated. And when Alan Steinberg arrived at the EPA in the fall of 2005, he quickly moved to put Ringwood back on the superfund list, the first and only time a superfund site had been relisted.

"I went to the site myself and what I saw was a tragedy," said Steiberg. "I can't speak exactly for what happened then, but I know that the judgment was not that of the EPA alone. It was also the judgment of other agencies involved. The federal government, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry and also the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. It was an honest misjudgment."

But it was a misjudgment that meant the citizens of Ringwood continued to live on a toxic waste site for years longer than they should have. And many in upper Ringwood said they are sick as a result of their exposure to the toxins.

"I have not talked to every single one of them, but I wouldn't doubt it," said Steinberg. "But that's why we engaged various agencies in the federal and state government to deal with the health issues."

"I can't make the exact judgment," Steinberg continued. "It's up to the health agencies. But is there a potential that this contamination has resulted in sickness? Absolutely. ? I would still be very angry if I were a citizen of upper Ringwood."

And many of them are angry and sick. "We live on a 500-acre hazardous waste land fill," said Wayne Mann. "We don't live on the outskirts of it. We live on it."

And the toxins, they say, have devastated their community.

"Mentally, physically, bodily and culturally, it has destroyed it. All four ways it has destroyed it," said Mann. "How do you justify poisoning men, women and children? You cannot justify. And Ford fully knew what it was doing."

'I Feel Betrayed'

Since the site was put back on the superfund list in 2006, Ford has again been cleaning up the sludge in Ringwood.

"This site was done and excavated and restored to its natural state," said Holt, while walking through the site.

He said the recent effort met "the requirements of the state of New Jersey and the EPA. You'll see little virile ponds, and in a couple of weeks, you'll see little tadpoles. ? This is all clean."

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