Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Bush Administration does a Good Thing

Johnny 99 was the lucky one

It's a great track, with a poignant opening stanza:

Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late that month
Ralph went out lookin' for a job but he couldn't find none
He came home too drunk from mixin'Tanqueray and wine
He got a gun shot a night clerk now they call'm Johnny 99

But, as with "They'll meet 'neath that giant Exxon sign that brings this fair city light," the reality turns out to be even more pessimistic for Those Left Behind:

[L]ocal residents who claimed that the area had never been properly cleaned and that dangerous material left over from the assembly of millions of automobiles in a plant in nearby Mahwah was endangering their health.

Contractors hired by Ford dumped tons of paint sludge laced with toxic chemicals and other polluted debris in a remote area of Ringwood around two Revolutionary War-era iron mines....

Ford closed the Mahwah plant in 1980. Two years later the federal government proposed adding Ringwood to the National Priorities List, as the list of Superfund sites is known.

The dumping solution led to what an economist would call "unintended" consequences--and the rest of the world thinks of as "not thinking things through":

Some local residents, most of them members of the Ramapough Mountain Indian Tribe, have serious illnesses, including certain cancers and skin diseases that have been linked to the toxins. They also have leukemia rates that are twice the statewide average, according to a lawsuit they filed against Ford in January.

This story has a happy ending (so far):

The company has cleaned the area several times, and in 1994 the E.P.A. declared the area clean enough to be removed from the Superfund list. Once sites are removed from the list, they rarely are returned to it....

For the last two years, residents have demanded that Ford be ordered to remove tons of additional material. New Jersey officials also pressured the federal government to ensure that the area was properly decontaminated.

Ford has already agreed to undertake a comprehensive cleanup of the remaining material. The company, in an agreement with the E.P.A., also initiated widespread testing of the area to determine the full extent of the toxic material that might be dumped there.

It is a rare time when one can say that the Bush Administration has done a Good Thing for the Environment. Let us celebrate this achievement.


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