In New Jersey, Ford faces lawsuit over polluting tribal land

New Jersey is suing Ford Motor Company, one of many nation’s largest car producers, for allegedly dumping waste on the homelands of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, a Native American tribe acknowledged by the state. 

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in state courtroom, accuses the corporate of disposing of 1000’s of tons of poisonous paint sludge and different pollution on the positioning of a former iron mine in northern New Jersey within the Nineteen Sixties and 70s, then donating or promoting the land with out disclosing the contamination. As a consequence, tribal members say they’ve skilled most cancers, start defects, and different destructive well being results. 

“I misplaced my grandmother to most cancers,” Ramapough Lenape Nation member Angel Stefancik stated at a press convention asserting the go well with. “I’m 22 years outdated and I undergo with a listing of power diseases due to what has been finished to me.” At the identical time, Stefancik stated, leaving will not be an possibility. “I wish to be there for the remainder of my life … I used to be born there, and I’m gonna die there.” 

The lawsuit, although, doesn’t give attention to these well being points particularly. Instead, it seeks damages for the destruction of pure assets, and accuses the corporate of “deliberate acts or omissions taken with a wanton and willful disregard for the welfare of the residents of New Jersey.” Contaminants equivalent to lead, arsenic, benzene, and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs — probably human carcinogens, based on the federal Environmental Protection Agency — have been discovered on the website. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has twice listed Ringwood as a Superfund website, the place cleanup of poisonous waste is ongoing.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by way of Facebook

In an announcement, Ford advised Grist that it has not but had time to assessment the lawsuit and absolutely reply to its claims. “Ford takes its environmental duty severely and has proven that by means of our actions to handle points in Upper Ringwood,” the neighborhood the place the dumping occured, the corporate stated by means of a spokesperson. “We perceive this has affected the neighborhood and have labored cooperatively with the Borough of Ringwood, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency whereas implementing the remediation plan stipulated by the EPA.” 

Ford opened an auto meeting plant within the close by city of Mahwah in 1955, and the corporate bought the 500-acre Ringwood Mine website 10 years later to make use of as a landfill. Over the following decade, based on the EPA, it dumped poisonous waste into the forests and wetlands of the positioning, in addition to deserted mine shafts. The space has been the house of the Lenape individuals since lengthy earlier than European colonization, and components of the positioning had been used as inexpensive housing for the Ramapough individuals, who hint their ancestry to the Lenape, within the Seventies. Ringwood meets the standards for an “overburdened neighborhood” underneath New Jersey’s 2020 Environmental Justice Law

“Today we maintain Ford accountable for Natural Resource Damages — for knowingly polluting a number of the State’s most valuable environmental property, then strolling away with out disclosing the poisonous mess they’d made or making an attempt to mitigate the hurt,” New Jersey’s appearing lawyer normal, Matthew Platkin, stated in a press launch

Unfinished vehicles on the Ford meeting line in Mahwah, New Jersey, in 1976.
Brian Alpert/Keystone by way of Getty Images

In 1983, the EPA designated Ringwood a Superfund website, and Ford performed cleanups all through the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties. But additional waste was found within the following years, and Ringwood was re-listed as a Superfund website in 2006, the one time the EPA has finished so; Ford ultimately agreed to pay the state $2.1 million to cowl the prices of the cleanup. The new lawsuit builds upon this previous recourse, in search of an as-of-yet-unspecified quantity in damages for the destruction of pure assets, which might fund tasks to additional restore the contaminated land as a lot as attainable. 

Ford has additionally confronted a class-action lawsuit from round 600 Ramapough Lenape Nation members, who sued the corporate in 2006 for property injury and private harm. The authorized battle was the topic of an HBO documentary, “Mann v. Ford,” that adopted the tribe’s lawsuit in opposition to the backdrop of the 2008 monetary disaster and subsequent automotive trade downturn. Fearing that Ford would possibly go bankrupt, the Ramapough accepted an $11 million settlement with the corporate, based on the documentary. But waste stays on the website, and cleanup is ongoing; the EPA doesn’t anticipate “closing remedial motion” to start till 2024. 

The Ramapough Lenape Nation’s wrestle in opposition to Ford is a part of a worldwide pattern; world wide, Indigenous individuals undergo disproportionately from the impacts of air pollution, based on a 2020 research from Helsinki University. Also on Thursday, the U.S. authorities introduced it had reached a $32 million settlement with New Mexico over a 2015 spill that polluted rivers within the Navajo Nation with arsenic, lead, and different heavy metals. 

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