Home > Uncategorized > EPA’s Last Minute Bait and Switch In Ringwood Superfund Site is a Blatant Abuse That Can Not Stand

EPA’s Last Minute Bait and Switch In Ringwood Superfund Site is a Blatant Abuse That Can Not Stand

The Ford scheme is so blatant an abuse and the EPA ROD so clearly deficient, I can only guess that Enck’s approval was dictated at a political level from Washington

[Update #2: 7/5/14 – The Record editorial nails it, read “Toxic Compromise” – end update]

[Update#1 below]

The Bergen Record reports today that EPA has “decided” to allow the Ford Motor Company to get away with a cynical scheme to avoid millions of dollars in cleanup costs and leave thousands of tons of toxic sludge in the ground, posing permanent risks instead of permanent remedies, see:

In fact, EPA’s own Superfund program manager openly admits that Ford has proposed a scheme:

Opponents of the plan, including many members of the Ramapough Lenape Nation who live next to O’Connor, say the recycling center is nothing more than a way for Ford and the borough to get out of an expensive cleanup.

Even the EPA official who is allowing the capping plan agreed. “I have no doubt that’s the motivation,” said Walter Mugdan, an EPA official in charge of cleaning up Superfund sites in New Jersey and New York. “It’s certainly a very plausible view.” …

“I was unhappy to get this plan at the 11th hour and 59th minute, but it’s not my job or the U.S. government’s job to be in the business of local land use,” Mugdan said.

This seemed like such an outrageous abuse, on so many levels, that I decided to read what is called the EPA Superfund “Record of Decision” (ROD) for the Ringwood site, and look into EPA’s Superfund Guidance documents for ROD’s.

EPA is suggesting that they would agree – prospectively and conditionally –  to what is know, in ROD parlance, as a “Contingent Remedy”.

So, I read the ROD Guidance on what a “Contingent Remedy” requires.

EPA’s scheme in the Ringwood ROD does not come close to meeting EPA’s obligations under their own Guidance documents regarding “Contingent Remedies”.

In just one example of the egregious abuse, EPA Guidance for “Contingent Remedies” requires that EPA provide “Documentation of Significant Changes” resulting from the Ford scheme (plus a side-by-side comparison with the preferred remedy). The ROD not only failed to do that, the ROD states this whopper (on page 72):

DOCUMENTATION OF SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

Upon review of all comments submitted, EPA has determined that no significant changes to the selected remedy, as presented in the Proposed Plan, are warranted. 

How could the Ford scheme not constitute a “significant change?

I have not worked on the Ringwood site. So, without doing a thorough analysis and going into all the details,  in an effort to derail this nonsense, I fired off this letter to EPA Region 2 Administrator, Judith Enck.

Enck, who obviously knows better, should never have signed off on this ROD.

The Ford scheme is so blatant an abuse and the EPA ROD so clearly deficient, I can only guess that Enck’s approval was dictated at a political level from Washington.

There needs to be strong public denunciation of this scheme and public pressure put on EPA and Ringwood officials to repudiate it.

Dear Regional Administrator Enck:

I am deeply disturbed by EPA’s “decision” to propose a prospective and conditional “Contingency Remedy” in Ringwood.

In briefly reviewing the ROD, I note this: (@ page 67)

“If [prospective] actions taken by the Borough allow for implementation of the contingency remedy, EPA will appropriately document the change from the selected remedy to the contingency remedy. EPA will select the contingency remedy,Alternative 4A, if the following occurs: [emphasis mine – conditions omitted]

http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/ringwood/pdfs/ringwood_final_rod_063014_complete.pdf

I briefly reviewed applicable Superfund Guidance on ROD’s and “Contingent Remedies”, see:

http://www.epa.gov/superfund/policy/remedy/rods/pdfs/guide_decision_documents_071999.pdf

The Ringwood proposal is a blatant abuse of the Superfund decision process and is inconsistent with and does not meet the requirements of EPA’s Guidance.

The EPA’s approach in the ROD and the prospective “conditional contingency remedy” proposed therein is inconsistent with Superfund Guidance and regulations, for many reasons I will not go into here, but merely state just one:

The above excerpt of the ROD relies on prospective conditions and does not comply with Guidance for “Contingency remedies”.

EPA Guidance requires that EPA provide a basis for the “Contingency remedy” – the ROD does not do so, but instead proposes to reopen the ROD process and select the Contingent Remedy.

Additionally, given the timing of the proposed recycling center at the site, there has been no opportunity for public review.

This kind of bait and switch and cleanup cost avoidance are blatant abuses of the Superfund process, they undermine permanent and protective remedies, they destroy public confidence in EPA, and they would set a terrible precedent in Region 2 and nationally.

I urge your immediate reconsideration.

Bill Wolfe

[Update – I don’t want to get into the substantive issues in this post, but feel compelled to note the EPA’s rank hypocrisy with respect to the Highlands Act and its implementation requirements under the Highlands Regional Master Plan and the DEP Highlands preservation area regulations.

This is very similar to the debate we are having with respect to the Fenimore landfill – i.e. that Section 80 and 81 of the Highlands Act require that “remediation” be “consistent with the Highlands RMP”.

The Ford/Ringwood site is located in the Highlands Preservation Area and cleanup activities must comply with the Act’s requirements.

In the comments I worked on with Edison Wetlands Assc., I urged EPA to consider compliance with the Highalnds Act as what is known as a State “ARAR” .

EPA ROD failed to consider the Highlands Act, the Regional Master Plan, or the DEP Highlands regulations as State ARAR’s (see Tables 2, 3 and 4 for ARAR’s EPA considered).

However, as a justification of the “Contingent” scheme, EPA did note the Highlands Act’s jurisdiction as a step by Ringwood that demonstrated good faith progress, see:

Since presenting the proposal to relocate the Borough’s Recycling Center to the O’Connor Disposal Area to the USEPA on September 11, 2013, the Borough has taken the following actions to advance this proposal:

[1. – 3]

4. Authorized E&LP to prepare applications for permits required by the NJDEP and the Highlands Commission for the new Recycling Center; 

So, EPA recognizes the Highlands Act when it comes to approvals for a Recycling Center but not a Superfund cleanup?

Are you kidding me?

BTW, the State of NJ concurred with the EPA approved Ford scheme (see Appendix V for DEP letter),

Amazingly, the lazy humps at DEP plagiarized EPA’s ROD – the DEP letter repeats verbatim text from the EPA ROD.

I guess plagiarizing EPA is what now passes for State review at NJ DEP. Pathetic.

so opponents need to target the Christie Administration as well as EPA.

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