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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 01, 2006

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


 
DHSS Releases Health Assessment on Ringwood Mines/Landfill Site, Calls for Further Testing of Residents' Exposures


 

TRENTON – The Ringwood Mines/Landfill site remains a public health hazard to the community, and further testing is needed to better understand nearby residents’ current exposures to lead, arsenic and other contaminants from the site, according to a federal-state report released today.

          The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) today released a public health assessment on the landfill, a Superfund site that Ford Motor Co. used decades ago to dump car parts, paint sludge, solvents and other wastes from its Mahwah assembly plant.

Despite past site remediation efforts, paint sludge remains widespread at the site and on residents’ properties.  Residents – many of them members of the Ramapough Mountain tribe – are concerned that cases of cancer, neurological disorders, respiratory diseases, skin rashes and other health problems are related to site contamination.

          “We know that the residents have many health questions, and we’re committed to making sure they receive the attention they need,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.  “We and ATSDR will work in close cooperation with the community to plan further testing that can give us better insight into exposures to contaminants.”

The assessment released today recommends that future testing should include biological testing for exposures to site contaminants, as well as environmental testing of dusts and soils close to homes, he noted.

Under a cooperative agreement with ATSDR, the department conducts public health assessments of hazardous waste sites.  The purpose is to determine whether people were likely exposed to contaminants in the past or present, and what impact exposures may have on community health.  Assessments recommend further steps that should be taken to protect public health.

The assessment released today includes an examination of Ringwood’s cancer rates as well as childhood blood-lead levels.  For the period 1979-2002, overall cancer incidence was not elevated either in people living near the landfill or in Ringwood Borough as a whole, the assessment found.

Lung cancer was statistically elevated in men living nearest the landfill.  But since it was not elevated in women, there is little evidence site contamination has affected cancer incidence.  Smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer.  However, there was no information available on residents’ smoking history.

A review of childhood blood-lead data from 1999 to 2005 showed that, when compared with the rest of Ringwood Borough, children living nearest the landfill were more likely to have higher blood-lead levels, and the average blood-lead level was slightly higher as well. 

According to the public health assessment, the 500-acre Ringwood Mines/Landfill site contains metals such as lead, antimony and arsenic, as well as organic chemicals, such as benzene and PCBs.

Residents were likely exposed to contaminants through skin contact with paint sludge, and contaminated soil and water; through drinking water from contaminated springs until the mid-1980s; and through incidental ingestion of paint sludge, soil and water used for recreation.

In particular, lead, antimony and arsenic exposures may have been at levels of health concern.  When waste was being dumped at the site, both adults and children exposed to paint sludge were at risk of having high blood-lead levels, according to mathematical models.  Lead is still found in the soil at levels that can impact children’s health.  Lead can harm the nervous system, kidneys and red blood cell production, and can affect reproduction and development.

Antimony was also found in sludge at levels that may be harmful, although not much is known about the effects of long-term exposure.  Antimony exposure can cause liver and blood changes, and affect heart muscle.

Arsenic was present in surface water used as a drinking water source in the past.  The health assessment noted that arsenic may be naturally occurring in the area.  Arsenic exposure can lead to skin and neurological disorders, and may increase the risk of certain cancers.  Exposure to both lead and arsenic can increase health risks, particularly of neurological problems.

As a result, the report found the site was a public health hazard in the past as well as a current public health hazard.

In addition to conducting further exposure investigations, the health assessment recommends a number of environmental actions be taken.  These are:  remediate all paint sludge as soon as possible, giving special attention to children’s play areas and residents’ gardens; determine the extent of groundwater contamination and consider reinstituting environmental monitoring of off-site drinking wells; determine which contaminants may have affected the area’s plants and animals, particularly the game animals consumed by residents; and determine the background levels of arsenic and other contaminants in the environment.

          The public health assessment is now in draft form.  Public comment on the report will be accepted until July 3, 2006.  Written comments, which must be postmarked by July 3, may be mailed to: Hazardous Site Health Evaluation Program, Public Health Services Branch, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, P. O. Box 369, Trenton, NJ 08625-0369.  Residents may also provide oral comments to staff of the DHSS or ATSDR.

          Copies of the Ringwood Mines/Landfill health assessment, and the citizen’s guide to the report, may be obtained by calling the DHSS Consumer and Environmental Health Services, (609) 584-5367.  The documents may also be viewed and downloaded from the DHSS web site at:  www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/cehsweb/sitepage.htm#Ringwood. In addition copies are available at the Ringwood Public Library, 30 Cannici Drive, Ringwood, NJ.

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