Ford Dumped Hazardous Waste on Native American Tribal Land, New Jersey Lawsuit Alleges

Lawsuit claims Ford tried to hide dumping hazardous substances and cancer-causing chemicals, including arsenic, benzene and PCBs.

Ford Motors faces a lawsuit by the state of New Jersey, which alleges that the auto maker concealed information about hazardous waste and cancer-causing chemicals dumped on hundreds of acres of Native American Tribal property and wetlands for years.

The complaint (PDF) was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey Law for Bergen County on June 16 by New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General, Matthew J. Platkin and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The lawsuit names Ford Motors Company as the defendant, claiming that the company caused extensive and continuous damage to the state’s natural resources by discharging undisclosed hazardous waste.

New Jersey officials indicate that Ford Motors intentionally concealed information about dumping large amounts of toxic waste across more than 500 acres in Passaic County from 1967 and 1974, including lead, arsenic, benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), semi-volatile organic compounds, chrysene and 1,4 dioxane, a colorless solvent believed to be a carcinogen, as well as other pollutants.

Ford purchased Ringwood Mines in 1965, for the sole purpose of using it as a landfill for its Mahwah Assembly plant. The complaint states that for nearly ten years Ford negligently disposed of thousands of tons of toxic chemicals in the forests and on the grounds, as well as in its abandoned mineshafts and pits, concealing how much, and what toxic substances were being discharged into the surrounding areas.

According to allegation raised in the lawsuit, DEP says Ford failed to report the full extent of the hazardous substance discharge at the Site as required by the Spill Act, which would have required Ford to implement costly and extensive remediation of the toxic substances.

Rather than implementing remediation efforts after concealing the extent of the toxic discharges, Ford donated or sold off all of the contaminated Ringwood Mines property to the Ringwood Borough and to the DEP while fully aware it was not disclosing the extent of the contamination, the lawsuit states.

Since taking over the property, DEP’s testing has discovered concerning levels of lead and paint sludge in the soil, and added the property to its National Priorities List,  which are categorized as areas known  to contain, release or threaten release of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories.

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Since the discovery, Ford has been required to remove over 8,300 cubic yards of paint sludge and soil from buried sections of the old mining facility, and in 2019, the automaker was forced to pay $2.1 million to cover DEP’s past costs related to cleanup and disposal of the paint sludge and other contaminants within Ringwood Mines.

However, the recently filed lawsuit states Ford’s “wanton and willful disregard for the welfare of the residents of New Jersey” continues to cause extensive damage to the natural resources surrounding the Ramapough Lenape Nation, a federally recognized Native American tribe, as well as surrounding homes and part of Ringwood State Park.

“Today we hold Ford accountable for Natural Resource Damages — for knowingly polluting some of the State’s most precious environmental assets, then walking away without disclosing the toxic mess they had made or attempting to mitigate the harm,” Acting Attorney General Platkin said in a press release.

The lawsuit not only seeks compensation for the contamination of air, soil, groundwater, surface water, wetlands, wildlife and aquatic life surrounding the disposal areas, but also seeks punitive damages for Ford’s failure to notify DEP of those discharges, and the automakers ongoing “concealment of the full extent of the contamination.”

While the DEP’s lawsuit seeks damages for the contamination of property, Ford could face ground water contamination lawsuits filed by residents in the coming months for exposing individuals to toxic chemicals for decades that have been linked to cancer and other serious health consequences.

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