Al Jazeera: Ramapough Nation demands cleanup of toxic sites

Al Jazeera:

Ramapough Lunaape Nation of New Jersey is still waiting for Ford Motor to clean up toxic sites on its ancestral territory that have been linked to cancer and other illnesses:
Ford produced more than 6 million cars at its plant in nearby Mahwah, N.J., from 1955 to 1980. Automobile paint containing lead, arsenic, benzene, chromium and other chemicals was sprayed on the cars rolling off Ford’s assembly line. But with large-scale production came large-scale pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ford dumped millions of gallons of paint sludge in the woods surrounding Mahwah. More than 40 years later, some of the paint sludge is still there.

Among the largest dump sites were two abandoned iron mines and a landfill in Ringwood, N.J. The paint sludge is still visible in hardened lavalike pools on the forest floor, stuck between rocks and cascading down hills. Break off a chunk of the dried paint sludge and the smell of acetone is almost as potent as ever, Stead said. The paint was dumped into 55-gallon drums and then carted to places like Ringwood and Hillburn, N.Y. Some of the rusted-out drums are still visible in the woods.

Contamination from the paint sludge has made him and many other people here sick, he said, and no one has been harder hit than the Ramapough Indians, who have called this land home for centuries.

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry said the approximately 3,500 tribal members who live in the area have higher rates of cancer, birth defects and other health problems from decades of contaminated water and soil. The tribe, which is recognized by the states of New York and New Jersey but not by the federal government, uses the old Dutch spelling of its name.

Like many adults here, Ramapough clan mother Vivian Milligan remembers playing in the paint sludge as a child. Some children even chewed the sweet lead-containing substance like gum because the community didn’t know it was dangerous, she said. “We used to jump around on it, and it was so enjoyable, jumping around on that pretty, colored hard stuff. And did we know it was going to affect us? No,” she said.

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Ramapough Indian tribe demands cleanup of ‘toxic legacy’ (Al Jazeera 3/21)

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