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$46.7M Paint Sludge Cleanup Planned

Friday, October 4, 2013

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The next step in removing tens of thousands of tons of paint sludge, paint waste and tainted soil from an old Ford Motor Co. site in New Jersey will cost $46.7 million, under a cleanup plan proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 28-page proposed EPA plan, released Monday (Sept. 30), aims to address contamination in three areas of the Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund site in Ringwood, NJ.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, these areas were used to dispose of drums full of paint sludge, paint waste and other waste materials from the Ford Motor Co. automobile assembly plant in Mahwah, NJ, EPA said.

Ringwood Superfund Site
Photos: EPA

Tens of thousands of tons of toxic paint sludge, paint waste and contaminated soil have been removed from the former Ford Motor Co. disposal site over the years.

"Sampling of the paint waste found that it contained lead, arsenic, chromium and other contaminants," EPA said.

30-Year Superfund Site

The 500-acre Ringwood Mines/Landfill site, located in a historic iron mining district, has been on and off the Superfund list for 30 years. The rugged, forested area, one-half mile wide and one and one-half miles long, has about 50 private homes as well as abandoned mine shafts and pits, inactive landfills and open waste dumps.

The site was added to the Superfund list of hazardous waste sites in 1983, then removed in 1994, based on a finding that "all appropriate cleanup actions had been taken," according to EPA. However, additional areas of paint sludge were found in 1995, 1998 and 2004, in addition to other contaminated materials, prompting the EPA to restore the site to the Superfund list in 2006.

The plan for the next phase of cleanup, estimated at $46.7 million, addresses contamination at three areas, known as Peter's Mine Pit, the Cannon Mine Pit, and the O'Connor Disposal Area.

Ford and the Borough of Ringwood are conducting and paying for the cleanup, with oversight by the EPA.

Toxic History

The actions in the proposed plan build on cleanup work performed at the site over many years.

Ringwood Superfund site

The heavily forested site includes about 50 private homes as well as abandoned mine shafts and pits, inactive landfills and open waste dumps.

Between 1984 and 1988, Ford conducted an investigation—overseen by the EPA—of the nature and extent of contamination at the site. Based on the results, the EPA then ordered Ford to excavate and dispose of the paint sludge found and to monitor ground water and surface water on a long-term basis.

(EPA's series of Administrative Orders to Ford regarding its duties at the site are detailed in an EPA Fact Sheet.)

Since then:

  • 7,700 cubic yards of paint sludge and soil were removed from the site in 1987 and 1988;
  • About 600 cubic yards of paint sludge and 54 intact and crushed drums were removed in 1990;
  • 50 cubic yards of paint sludge were discovered at the site in 1997 and removed later that year and in 1998;
  • About 53,500 tons of additional paint sludge, drum remnants and soil from the Peter’s Mine Pit Area, the O’Connor Disposal Area, and 15 additional disposal areas on the site have been removed and disposed of since December 2004, and those activities are ongoing.

In 2011, the EPA began testing for lead on residential properties and dioxin in people’s homes. Wherever either was found to exceed protective levels, the EPA has cleaned it up. The agency says it has removed more than 2,400 tons of soil from people’s yards.

The Next Phase

The EPA's proposal for the next phase of cleanup includes:

  • Excavating, removing and disposing of about 22,000 tons of fill material, soil and debris from around the opening of Peter's Mine Pit;
  • Capping all of the waste in the Cannon Mine Pit in place, covering the cap with a clean layer of soil, replanting the area and fencing it off; and
  • Completely excavating the O'Connor Dispoal Area (an estimated 166,000 tons of contaminated soil), covering the area with topsoil, and replanting it.
Ringwood Superfund site

The Ringwood Mines/Landfill site  was added to the national Superfund list in 1983, removed in 1994 after cleanup was deemed complete, then restored to the list in 2006 after additional paint sludge and other contaminants were found.

The EPA also has a second option for the area, because the borough recently announced that it would move its municipal recycling center to the O'Connor Disposal Area.

The public comment period for the proposed plans opened Wednesday (Oct. 2) and runs through Dec. 7. A public heaing is set for Nov. 7.

The full history of the Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund Site, including documents and photos, is available on EPA's web site.

   

Tagged categories: Automotive coatings; Enforcement; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Hazardous waste; Hexavalent chromium; Lead; Paint disposal; Solvents

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