New Jersey sues Ford over dumping hazardous waste on Native American lands

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RINGWOOD, NJ – New Jersey is suing the Ford Motor Company for dumping hazardous waste on Native American lands in Passaic County since the 1960s.

On Thursday, CBS2’s Nick Caloway spoke with people who live there about the impact of toxic pollution.

In the Ringwood Hills, a poisonous slime has quietly lingered in the ground and water for decades.

“This native community has literally been used as a dumping ground. That’s the definition of environmental injustice,” said Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

LaTourette said the state is seeking compensation from Ford to repair degraded natural resources.

The automaker began disposing of thousands of tons of toxic paint sludge in forests and mines around Ringwood in the 1960s, officials said.

There have been numerous attempts to clean up hazardous waste, including one in 2006.

The nearby Mahwah Ford plant closed a long time ago, but the pollution remains. Toxins like lead and arsenic can be found in soil.

Many of the 200 people who live nearby are members of the Ramapough Lenape Nation. They have lived on the land for generations and said the toxic spill killed some and left others with chronic illnesses.

“I lost a list of relatives to cancer. I have irritable bowel syndrome, I have psychiatric issues,” Angel Stefancik said.

“Today brings us the promise of a new day,” said Ramapough Lenape Nation Turtle Clan Chief Vincent Mann.

Mann said the trial brings some hope for justice.

“Justice for our people is a clean environment in which to begin to heal before you can truly begin to thrive,” Mann said.

But many tribesmen are skeptical anything will be done anytime soon.

In a statement, Ford told us the company takes environmental responsibility seriously and could not comment further because company officials had just received the lawsuit.

Experts said the amount of money sought by the lawsuit was likely in the millions of dollars.

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