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New Jersey is suing Ford for mining on the corrupted tribal lands

RINGWOOD, NJ – New Jersey officials sued Ford Motor Co. on Thursday, alleging that the automaker had contaminated the ancestral homeland of a Native American tribe by dumping paint sludge and other pollutants into a former mine.

The lawsuit in federal court seeks unspecified damages to restore the land and compensate the state and local communities for losses they have suffered from damage to natural resources.

The lawsuit alleges that Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford dumped pollutants on the former Ringwood Mine site, a 500-acre site that includes home to the Ramapough Lenape Nation, a state-recognized tribe.

Tribe members attended Thursday’s press conference and spoke of years of illness and deaths they attribute to the contamination of their land.

“Can you promise my community a future?” tribal member Angel Stefancik asked New Jersey officials during the press conference. “I have lived on contaminated land all my life. I want the land my ancestors grew up on, where you can walk barefoot. I want my rabbits, my toads, fruit trees.

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“I lost my grandmother to cancer,” she said. “I’m 22 and have a long list of chronic illnesses. It’s so hard to live in this area, but this is my country. I was born there and I will die there.”

The state’s lawsuit alleges that Ford purchased Ringwood Mines in 1965 to use as a landfill where it could dispose of hazardous waste generated by its Mahwah auto assembly plant, one of the largest auto assembly plants in the United States

Between 1967 and 1974, according to the lawsuit, Ford dumped thousands of tons of toxic paint sludge in the forests and grounds of the Ringwood mines and in its abandoned mine shafts and pits. Other pollutants were also dumped there, the state said.

Ford subsequently donated or sold all of Ringwood Mines’ contaminated properties even though it was fully aware — but without disclosing it — that those properties were contaminated with hazardous and toxic waste, according to the lawsuit.

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The state has not announced a specific claim for damages.

Ford said it just received the lawsuit and couldn’t comment on the details.

But it issued a statement that said: “Ford takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and has demonstrated this through our actions to solve problems in Upper Ringwood. We understand that this has had an impact on the community and have worked with the Borough of Ringwood, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agency to implement the EPA-mandated remediation plan.

Chief Vincent Mann of the Ramapough Lenape Nation’s Turtle Clan said his community of 200 have suffered for years from illnesses and deaths they all believe were linked to dumping at the mine site.

“People died because of cancer, rare diseases, birth defects,” he said. “Every time someone calls you late at night, you’re like, ‘Did someone else die?'”

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State officials noted that Ford agreed to pay New Jersey $2.1 million to cover its past costs of cleaning up and disposing of the paint sludge and other contaminants at the Ringwood mines as part of a 2019 state settlement .

Thursday’s lawsuit involves compensation for damage to and lost use of natural resources.

“Today we hold Ford responsible for damage to natural resources, for knowingly polluting some of the state’s most valuable environmental assets, and then walking away without disclosing the toxic mess they made or trying to mitigate the damage.” , Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said.

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Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/16/new-jersey-sues-ford-over-mining-that-tainted-tribal-land/ New Jersey is suing Ford for mining on the corrupted tribal lands

Sarah Y. Kim

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