More than 650 residents of Ringwood, New Jersey, are suing Ford Motor Company over a toxic waste dump known as Sludge Hill. The area is one of the most polluted in the country and has been for decades – It’s been listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s superfund list twice.
During the 1960s, Ford used the area to dispose of toxic by-products of its manufacturing processes. Paint, chemicals and battery acid-these and other hazardous waste products melted together to form a now rock hard toxic sludge that was originally a colorful liquid slime.
Residents Blame Sludge for Health Problems
The sludge contains benzene, lead and arsenic. Residents in the benzene lawsuit say the sludge contaminated their groundwater and many allege that they are sick as a result. Not surprisingly, Ford is denying any connection between the residents’ health problems and the toxic sludge.
In fact, the company is taking a defense similar to the tobacco companies by saying that genetic factors or benzene from the environment could have caused the residents’ current health issues. Ultimately, this defense did not work for big tobacco and hopefully it won’t work for Ford either.
Alan Steinberg, who heads the regional EPA, acknowledged that the residents’ health issues could very well be an effect of the benzene and other toxins they’ve been exposed to for so long. “…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,” he said.