Attorney: Ford Settles New Jersey Toxic Waste Lawsuit

September 8, 2009

The Ford Motor Co. has settled a lawsuit filed by residents of a northern New Jersey town over toxic waste dumped there nearly 40 years ago.

The settlement was announced in state Superior Court on Thursday. Details were not released, but The Record of Bergen County reported that residents of Ringwood, about 25 miles northeast of New York City, will receive about $10 million.

Under terms of the settlement, Ford and two other defendants, URS Corp. and Arrow Group Industries, admitted no liability for the residents’ claims of health problems caused by the waste.

Speaking on behalf of all three defendants, attorney Alan Kraus said, “Plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that they had been injured by exposure to toxic chemicals at the Ringwood landfill site. After more than three years of litigation, the parties have entered into a settlement that will resolve all the claims in the litigation.

“All defendants continue to deny any liability in the cases.”

Frank Floriani, an attorney representing the residents, did not return a message seeking comment Friday.

During the 1960s and 1970s, contractors hired by Ford dumped thousands of tons of paint sludge and heavy metals from a car manufacturing plant in nearby Mahwah into landfills, open pits and an abandoned mine that dates back to the 18th century.

The Ringwood site was placed on the federal Superfund list, a ranking of the country’s worst environmental dump sites, in 1983. Ford cleaned the area several times, and the EPA removed the site from the list in 1994.

But large amounts of hardened paint sludge and other waste were subsequently discovered, and the 500-acre site was put back on the Superfund list in 2006, where it remains. A joint federal-state report released that year found the site still contained potentially unsafe levels of metals and chemicals.

Residents blamed the toxins for serious illnesses including certain cancers and skin diseases, and about 700 of them joined a lawsuit in 2006.

The EPA is overseeing an ongoing reinvestigation of the site. According to an agency report from December 2008, Ford’s removal of paint sludge and waste-filled drums discovered in 2004 was completed last year. Groundwater testing performed through last year revealed the sporadic presence of contaminants above drinking water standards, while surface water tests indicated no elevated levels of contaminants.

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